USM, Mississippi at odds over a Gulf Coast campus building - - The News for South Mississippi

USM wants to demolish 'historically significant' building at Gulf Park campus


By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

LONG BEACH, MS   (WLOX) – Countless students, faculty, and staff once walked through the halls of the old Administration Building at USM Gulf Park. Today, the building is a moldy mess.  It still looks like the day Katrina blew through, with torn-up walls, washed-out floors and ripped-up insulation and wiring.

"It is time.  It is time," said Dr. Pat Joachim, Associate Provost of the Long Beach campus.

Joachim said the 89-year-old building has been hit by three major hurricanes already, and since part of it sits in a flood zone, it is in a very vulnerable position.

"The insurance is probably estimated to be about $90,000 a year and that is only one building.  With it being a wood and masonry building, it has really taken a beating," said Joachim.

Joachim said the Administration Building was actually recommended to be torn down as part of the 2004 Gulf Park Master Plan.  USM administrators were supposed to approve that plan on August 29, 2005, the very day Katrina hit.

Now, the building is eligible for $2.5 million in FEMA funding. Southern Miss wants to use some of that money to demolish the Admin Building. Most of the funding would go toward restoring Hardy Hall and possibly Lloyd Hall.  But since the Admin Building is considered 'historically significant,' that plan needs approval from the state Department of Archives and History, FEMA, and MEMA.

"There is some opposition," said Joachim. "I think that everyone understands the position of the university. We really do not have the money to bring back Hardy Hall in the manner that it should be brought back. We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money."

The State Department of Archives and History said the state and federal agencies are studying several options.  Those options include demolishing the building, rehabbing it, or repairing it, then mothballing it for future use.

Joachim said the recovery of the front of the campus is at a standstill, until a decision is made on the future of the Admin Building.

"So we're hoping we can come to an agreement soon and that we can move forward with this beautiful campus, so it will be whole again," said Joachim.

The Admin Building, Hardy Hall, and Lloyd Hall were once part of the Gulf Park College for Women.

Ken P'Pool with the State Department of Archives and History called those buildings 'important icons.'  In a statement sent to WLOX, P'Pool said, "The surviving buildings are among the Gulf Coast's most significant historic landmarks left standing after Katrina. Because of their significance, the department will continue consultations with USM and FEMA to explore future options for their preservation."

All the agencies involved will discuss the matter again next Wednesday at 1:30 PM at the USM Library in Long Beach.

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