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Published in CenterView on May 14, 2012

Master Makeover: Large gain, a little pain in store from campus improvements

New building and roadway construction on the north side of the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus during the next several months will signal that the institution’s master facilities plan has hit its stride.

All of the attendant activity will mean one thing to UMMC leadership: progress towards a greater future for Mississippi’s only academic medical center.

Powe_DavidDr. David Powe, UMMC’s chief administrative officer, called the forthcoming phase of the master facilities plan the beginning of a “renaissance for the campus.”

“At the 50th anniversary of this institution (in 2005), we took a careful look at how we can compete against other academic medical centers nationwide and become attractive in all areas of our mission,” Powe said. “We have to be on the cutting edge if we’re going to become that great American academic medical center that we want to be.

“With the master facilities plan, we have an opportunity to engage in the reshaping of the campus to accomplish that goal.”

This growth will not come without growing pains. In addition to the inconvenience of accommodating construction activities, the improvements planned in the initial phase will temporarily displace some employee parking in the area to nearby paid lots and possibly to the stadium.  But those lost spaces, and many more, will be recouped when a new parking garage opens east of the School of Dentistry in early 2014.

The initial reshaping of this area of campus is scheduled to take place in several stages, some of which already has begun:

•  Phase 1 construction of a new entrance to the Medical Center from Lakeland Drive is under way, with the goal of providing the community greater access to the north end of campus. The entrance will more effectively disperse traffic flow to the School of Health Related Professions and the School of Pharmacy buildings while helping to maintain a pleasing campus environment.

•  In concert with this new entrance, construction has begun on a four-lane connector to Lakeland Drive and a new two-lane road to link East University Drive to Peachtree Street  as part of a campus peripheral route outlined in the master facilities plan. The new routes will manage vehicular traffic flow, allow motorists, especially patients and visitors, easier access to key facilities on campus and create a Pedestrian Priority Zone among major buildings on the north side.

As a result of this roadway construction, some employees who park in Lot 12, next to the School of Health Related Professions, will be relocated to surface lots on the north side of Lakeland Drive. Construction of the Lakeland entrance and connecting roadways on campus, funded by state and federal economic development measures, are projected to be completed this November.

•  Initial development of the utilities infrastructure for the new School of Medicine building, scheduled to be erected to the north of the Verner Holmes Learning Resource Center in what is now Parking Lot 19, is scheduled to begin in June. Some parking in Lots 3, 19 and 21 will  be relocated to parking spaces in other surface lots around campus.

Keeton_James“The new School of Medicine building will provide a true home for our medical education program, with the small-group instruction and medical education facilities that are not only state-of-the-art but increasingly a requirement of fully accredited programs,” said Dr. James E. Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school.  “It will also provide the needed capacity to fulfill our plans to train more doctors for Mississippi.”

Final construction of the building, financed by state bonding revenues, is scheduled for August 2015 pending the availability of funding.

•  In January 2013, construction is scheduled to begin on a new Cancer and Biomedical Research Center, a veritable architectural “twin” to the current Arthur C. Guyton Research Center. Scheduled to be erected in what is now Parking Lot 3A, the eight-story center will boast biotech company incubator space, laboratory animal facilities and UMMC Cancer Institute laboratories.

The new tower will get some UMMC researchers out of 1950s-era laboratory space and get the Medical Center more firmly established in the burgeoning market for biotechnology.  It will also enhance the Cancer Institute’s goal of achieving designation by the National Cancer Institute. 
Federally funded, the 220,000-square-foot building will require employees who park in Lots 3 and 3A to relocate their vehicles. Construction of the Cancer and Biomedical Research Center is scheduled to be completed in July 2015.

•  To accommodate many of the parking displacements that are a result of this campus development, a new Parking Garage C is scheduled to be constructed to the east of the School of Dentistry building by early 2014. Funded entirely by private dollars, the garage initially will accommodate 1,070 vehicles with the potential to expand to 1,450.  This future facility will be connected with the overhead walk-way at the dental school in order to provide for safety, security and convenience for UMMC personnel and visitors.  
“The master facilities plan is intended to address everything needed to accommodate all of the Medical Center’s missions,” Powe said. “Along with that, we have to be able to provide for the needs of our employees, while emphasizing the maximum customer service for patients and visitors as well.

“A new parking garage on campus would most certainly provide a tremendous relief.”
Although they acknowledge many UMMC employees may have to make certain adjustments to their normal on-campus routines as a result of the upcoming construction projects, Medical Center leaders remain confident that the long-term benefit of the master facilities plan is well worth the effort.

“In order to have this renaissance, each one of us must be willing to play a part,” Powe said. “We are all going to be impacted by this, but it is a necessary part of contributing to something great for the future.”

(Enlarge Photo)