Significant changes are coming to traffic at the heart of the Mississippi State University campus to accommodate a new building that will combine a parking garage at its bottom with classrooms on upper floors.
Lee Boulevard, Walker Road and a small fragment of George Perry Street are slated to become a one-way loop around Bell Island to preserve access to Williams Hall, Hull Hall and the Chapel of Memories when a stretch of George Perry Street closes for the construction in summer 2013.
MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert said the move is a step toward the pedestrian-centered campus outlined in MSU’s master plan. He said he envisions traffic that would normally use Lee Boulevard to access Colvard Student Union, particularly visitors, diverting to the new classroom building’s parking garage.
“The classroom building is going to have ... about 180 spots (for) parking, which we would view as replacing all the visitor parking in front of (The University Florist) all the way up to the Union,” Gilbert said. “It’s going to be a universitywide classroom building; we’re going to allow all the departments to schedule classes in there. We’re going to have a large auditorium that will seat upwards of 300 students.”
Tim Muzzi, MSU architectural planning and construction associate director, said George Perry Street will close from the west end of Walker Road north to its intersection with Barr Avenue. Once construction ends, Muzzi said he does not expect George Perry Street to return to its current state as a two-way drive.
“We’ll be running a four-pipe system through that street, so it (will be) completely torn up,” Muzzi said. “Once we get through, George Perry Street will become the ramp to the second level of the parking garage ... which means I don’t have to have an interior ramp (in the parking garage), so it saves me space and gives me more parking. That (ramp) is where the shuttle will go in and come back out.”
This closure forces MSU to re-evaluate traffic flow on Walker Road, Muzzi said, because it limits access to Walker Road, and with it, access to Williams Hall, Hull Hall and the Chapel of Memories. Walker Road is currently an eastbound one-way road, but once construction begins, he said, it will change into a westbound one-way road — and Lee Boulevard will become a westbound one-way road.
A northbound fragment of George Perry Street will complete a counterclockwise loop, Muzzi said, one he expects to remain in place when construction ends. In an October MSU Faculty Senate meeting, Senate President Meghan Millea said this loop would become official over the winter break, but Muzzi said the time frame has changed in the weeks since the meeting.
“I’m not rushed to do it until we start construction for the classroom building — until July or August of next year,” Muzzi said. “Essentially, over next summer, we’ll take care of it. We’ll probably wait until the students are out (from) the spring semester to start it.”
The new directions for Lee Boulevard and Walker Road will result in corresponding changes to orientation for the streets’ parking, Muzzi said.
“We’ve got a couple of curb cuts (to implement, and we have to) reverse the striping,” Muzzi said. “It won’t take long.”
Muzzi said the classroom building will have two floors of parking beneath three floors of classrooms, for a total of 150,000 square feet. He said one reason for the extensive pipe work under George Perry Street is a new cooling system for the classroom building.
Gilbert said this system will actually stretch across the entire campus. Without this system, Gilbert said, MSU would not have the infrastructure for more buildings beyond the new classroom and parking building.
“It’s going to take advantage of the new chilled water facility that’s going to be installed in our physical plant that will let us store chilled water overnight when the rates are lower on electricity and utilize the cooled water for cooling purposes and for heat exchange,” Gilbert said. “This is a new technology that a lot of institutions are using to reduce their energy costs by having the ability to store chilled water at off-peak times and having the ability to use it during the day, during peak times.”