City, campus construction projects parallel population spike

Posted on Jun 28 2018 - 8:05am by Kendall Patterson

Both Ole Miss and Oxford have felt growing pains as more students attend the university and more people move to town, placing a higher demand on the city’s many stores, restaurants and places of entertainment.

At the beginning of 2017, Oxford’s Galleria II shopping center opened with many retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshall’s and Ulta Beauty and brought in some 2,000 jobs.

“I’m really grateful that people decided to move here, because they’re now able to build shopping places so I don’t have to drive to Tupelo,” local realtor Caroline Felker said. “When I was growing up here, there wasn’t a lot of fun things to do… now our Square is really fun.”

In addition to new places to shop downtown, Oxford has welcomed business to other spots in recent years. The Malco Theatre at Oxford Commons opened across Highway 7 from the Square in 2013 and was followed by the opening of Premier Lanes Entertainment Center in 2015.

“The more exciting things we have here, the more people want to live here. It’s become a really fun, balanced place now with all the culture we have,” Felker said. “We wouldn’t have as many things that we have if it wasn’t for the population.”

The University puts up road work signs on Fraternity Row for construction. It’s one of many scattered around the Ole Miss campus. Photo by Christian Johnson

The need to accommodate this increased population has left its mark on campus as well.

Ole Miss Student Housing has added seven residence halls since opening Residential College South in 2009. The most recent additions came in 2016 with Residence Hall 2 and Residence Hall 3.

“We’re sort of taking a cooling-off period,” Ole Miss Student Housing director Lionel Maten said. “We’re not in the construction of any new facilities nor are we planning for any new facilities at the current time.”

Maten said he is uncertain of what will be done with the Kincannon building, though, since its closure after the 2015-2016 academic year.

There are other campus construction projects still ongoing, such as the Student Union remodel and the updates to Guyton Hall.

The city is building a parking garage downtown that is proposed to sit behind what used to be the University Club, and the university has also expanded its parking, transportation and housing infrastructure on campus in the past few years.

The university opened The Pavilion Parking Garage in 2015, providing around 780 spaces offered to faculty and staff first and then commuters. In the fall of 2017, the residential parking garage behind Kincannon Hall opened and offered 1,500 spaces to on-campus residents.

Construction on campus. Photo courtesy John Scott

To accommodate for the increased number of students, more buses have been added to transportation routes along with two new bus lines in fall 2017, Rebel Red and Rebel Blue.

“What we did when we added those routes was to help students get around campus,” Ole Miss Parking and Transportation director Mike Harris said. “It’s a way to get on the bus and ride it into campus.”

Harris said 700 more Park & Ride spaces will become available in the spring of 2019 when the new South Campus Recreation Center, located at the previous Whirlpool lot, opens.

“Growth dictates everything we do here on campus,” Harris said. “As long as we’re growing then obviously we’ve got to look for better ways to manage that growth with the services we offer.”