The University of Mississippi purchased the old Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi facility last June to allow more space for the growing number of students and academic programs. Now, the university is debating plans for what will become of the building.
The university has not released any information about what the administration specifically plans to do with the property, but the size of the facility gives the university many options for how to use it. The purchased site has a total of 15 acres, a 428,000-square-foot building and more than 650 parking spaces.
“The university is excited about the quality and amount of space, which will benefit our students, staff and faculty,” said Ryan Whittington, Ole Miss marketing and brand strategy director. “The additional spaces provides us with many options to consider, and efforts are currently underway to determine which academic, research and support units should move to the new facility.”
Ole Miss has grown in enrollment almost every year with a current total enrollment population of more than 23,000 students. With the large increase, the university has been looking to add more buildings, and purchasing the hospital was cheaper than building another one. The university purchased the building for $22 million, and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter seemed pleased with the purchase.
“The purchase of this property allows us to provide improved space for our support units and other functions that serve external constituencies,” Vitter said in a written statement. “It will also be a major factor in helping us effectively address our capacity for future growth.”
Baptist Hospital sold the old building located on South Lamar Boulevard to the university because it has relocated to a newer, bigger and more modern facility on Belk Boulevard, which connects South Lamar Boulevard and Old Taylor Road. The hospital said it wanted the old building to go to someone who would use the space to help the city and community.
“This was a very easy decision for us,” Jason Little, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care, said. “We have been part of this community for nearly 30 years, and we have enjoyed a great relationship with the university during that time. We are proud to be able to help advance the university’s mission however we can.”
Hospital officials transported all patients to the new facility in November, but some staff members are still operating at the old hospital to maintain a smooth transition. The last staff members will relocate to the new facility at the end of the month.
“Beginning March 1, 2018, all utilities at the former hospital property will become the university’s responsibility,” Whittington said. “The university is currently developing a plan for building operations.”
The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board approved the agreement with the hospital, and the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors and Oxford Board of Aldermen both thought the deal was great for the city and county.
“This sale signifies a great partnership between the University of Mississippi and Baptist North Mississippi,” said Jeff Busby, president of the Board of Supervisors.