Tulane University looks for coast expansion site

By Steve Phillips – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Tulane University is looking to expand on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

The school, based in New Orleans, has outgrown the space it leases at Edgewater Mall.

One expansion site being considered is the old library building in downtown Gulfport.

Tulane representatives appeared before the Harrison County board of supervisors Monday to inquire about the old library.

They quickly learned about the contentious history of that storm-damaged library and the prolonged efforts to save it from the wrecking ball.

The old library in downtown Gulfport is among several sites Tulane is looking at for its coast expansion plans.

"Is this building up for consideration? Should we have this property as one that we consider?" Tulane representative Peter Baricev asked supervisors.

"We have gone through a year of hearings and things with FEMA, MEMA and the state architectural and historical people. And we have a memorandum of understanding," said Marlin Ladner, explaining the history behind the debate over the old library building.

"You all really need to understand what you need to go through to get that building and what requirements you've got to meet. And after that, I don't hear anybody here being opposed to it," said supervisor Kim Savant.

The Tulane representatives were simply making an initial inquiry into the availability and suitability of the old library building for the school's expansion.

They clearly were unaware of the post-Katrina heated debate over the library site.

"I have no idea what memorandum of understanding you're talking about. I have no idea what you guys have gone through. I have no idea of any of this situation. Our situation is that we're going to grow, we are going to expand, and we're going to go somewhere," said Baricev.

The Tulane group now has a better idea of the requirements and restrictions that come with any potential development of the library site.

"If you're still interested, and you meet those conditions, make that proposal to the board and I think we can go forward then," said supervisor Ladner.

One of the conditions in that "memorandum of understanding" says any project on the library property must be for "public use" and not include any "for profit" development.

That alone may exclude Tulane, which is a private university.

Tulane is considering other potential sites, including the old federal courthouse in downtown Biloxi.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.