By STEVEN NALLEY
The Mississippi State University Alumni Association got a glimpse into the campus’s future Thursday morning, with a presentation of the Campus Master Plan at their Breakfast with the Bulldogs at Starkville Cafe.
Jimmy McPherson, president of the Oktibbeha County chapter of the MSU Alumni Association, said the breakfast was such a success, with 34 people in attendance, that it might have to relocate somewhere other than the Starkville Cafe for the next breakfast on April 14, when Sid Salter is scheduled to talk about his new job as a journalist-in-residence at MSU. The breakfast, which falls on the third Thursday of each month, is only in its second month, and McPherson said its 10-person attendance was a success, all factors considered.
“We had people coming even in the snow,” McPherson said. “We were very happy with our turnout last month.”
A new parking garage, additional housing, classrooms and dining facilities for the growing student body are among the highest priorities on the plan, as presented by Campus Master Planner Roger Baker.
Baker said the plan was still flexible, especially concerning elements slated for 10 to 20 years ahead.
“It’s a living, breathing plan,” Baker said. “We’ve met with focus groups; we’ve met with students and staff; we’ve met with everyone from alumni to the people who put their shovels into the ground for our construction.”
The plan itself, hosted online at http://www.planning.msstate.edu/plan/ , says the garage will be located at the corner of George Perry Street and Barr Avenue to provide convenient parking for Colvard Union and the central campus. Baker said this parking garage would feature paid parking spaces for visitors, and be built within a five- to 10-year time frame.
However, Baker also said the university must explore alternative means to transport visitors, students living off-campus and other commuters to and through campus. He said the Campus Master Planning and Development Advisory Committee had evaluated the construction needed to accommodate them all, and it did not seem feasible.
“We would need to have paved 40 acres of campus,” Baker said. “We need to look at some new ways to move people on this campus.”
He said one of those alternatives was the expansion of MSU’s shuttle system into the city of Starkville was among these alternatives, but it fell outside the jurisdiction of the planning committee and would rely instead on MSU’s partnership with Starkville.
The plan also says one new residential hall called Arbor Hall is being “fast-tracked” for construction just south of Rice Hall, with 400 beds and great similarity to the recently finished South Hall. A new President’s Circle Dining Facility would also include additional classrooms.
“One of the things we’re looking at is doing away with Allen Hall and bringing back President’s Circle,” Baker said. “We’re lacking in certain classroom spaces. Also, we’ve got 4,600 students with meal plans, but our dining halls only have space for 3,500 of them. We’ve got to start focusing on new dining facilities.”
However, Baker said the campus’s 18 Mississippi Landmark Buildings, three of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, would all be preserved. In fact, he said the history of the campus was integral to the planning committee’s organization of the campus master plan, including a “Cultural Corridor” that follows the former Mobile and Ohio rail alignment through the campus.
“Sometimes things move around and change, and you forget about history,” Baker said. “You’ll never get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been, I always say.”
He also said it was important to establish a contiguous sense of place throughout the campus. Baker displayed a map that showed how far apart some buildings that serve the same academic majors are, and he also said the campus was in need of aesthetic continuity.
“Sometimes, when you’re in the athletic campus, you don’t feel like you’re on the rest of campus,” Baker said. “When you’re at the Wise Center, that doesn’t feel like the rest of campus. We want to be sure when you come to Mississippi State, you know you’ve been to Mississippi State.”