One year after the University of Mississippi purchased the former Baptist Memorial Hospital, the university has turned the hospital into a new academic building. The building will house UM departments that serve many purposes across campus.
The 485,000-square-foot building, located at 2301 S. Lamar Blvd., was purchased in June 2017 for $22 million, and the university took over payment of utilities on March 1, 2018. The university announced this summer that the building would be renamed the South Oxford Center.
“With our recent growth, we were running out of space, and this office provided an opportunity to acquire a large facility for an affordable price,” Associate Provost for Student Affairs Donna Strum said.
Ian Banner, university architect and the director of facilities planning, said purchasing the hospital was the right decision because it would have cost the university more money to build a new academic facility.
“Medical spaces do not match academic needs exactly; therefore, some renovations would be inevitable,” Banner said. “Selecting university departments whose needs matched as closely as possible with the existing facility was key to keeping costs down and shortening the construction time for interior modifications.”
The university moved the first three tenants, the Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment (COPE), the Center for Health and Sport Performance and Living Blues magazine, into the building last week.
COPE is “a training clinic for the counselor education project,” clinical coordinator Alexandria Kerwin said. “We see students, kids (and) adults, (and we) do couples therapy (and) play therapy for kids.”
“It’s more accessibility for our clients. Parking is more available … We’ve got seven counseling rooms, a break room, a conference room. It’s a great facility,” Kerwin said.
The Center for Health and Sport Performance is a partnership between the departments of nutrition and hospitality management and athletics.
“Research conducted in the center works to create best practices and validate current practices,” said Sarah Sapp, communications specialist in the School of Applied Sciences. “It creates applied experiences for students to explore career fields within a comprehensive athletic health and sport performance environment.”
Living Blues magazine is a blues magazine founded in 1970 in Chicago that “provide(s) fans with insightful, in-depth stories on such legendary blues artists as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Koko Taylor and John Lee Hooker,” according to its website. The first blues magazine published in America, Living Blues was purchased by the University of Mississippi in 1983 and is now published by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
“We’re really happy to be moving over here. We’re very excited,” Melanie Young, Living Blues’ publications manager, said. “It gives us more room — more spaces for off-campus publication.”
Six other tenants are scheduled to move into the building this year: the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the Office of Food and Nutrition Security, the Center for Research Evaluation, the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering and the North Mississippi Japanese Supplementary School.
The university hopes to move all the designated tenants into the South Oxford Center between October and March.
Staff writer Christian Osborn contributed to this article.