The buildings are the face of USM Gulf Park. For more than seven years, they sat vacant bearing the deep scars from Hurricane Katrina. But this week, those buildings are one step closer to coming back to life.
On Wednesday, crews started the monumental task of moving furniture, equipment and supplies into several buildings, including historic Hardy Hall.
It's a different type of hustle and bustle at the USM campus in Long Beach. Movers are hauling cabinets, desks, computers and office supplies from temporary quarters to two newly-restored buildings.
"We've been busy, busy, labeling, boxing, trying to get everything ready for a smooth move," said Dr. Frances Lucas, USM Gulf Coast VP & CEO.
Lucas calls this big move a major post-Katrina milestone.
"It's a wonderful recovery. I just think about over seven years ago, there was a 38 foot wall of water that came in right where I'm standing that devastated these buildings. And now I'm standing here with total excitement about bringing these buildings back," said Lucas.
One prominent building is historic Hardy Hall.
"I think it's beautiful. The new windows are especially attractive," said Lucas as she walked through the doors.
The facade, floors, and fireplace were restored to the way Hardy Hall looked when it opened in 1921. The three-story building will house the bookstore, dining services, administrative offices, meeting rooms, and the College of Education and Psychology.
"This is going to mean a very fresh start for Southern Miss Gulf Coast," she said. "We're going to have food here, book store, coffee. We believe that we'll be the intellectual hub of the Mississippi Gulf Coast."
Crews are also moving furniture and equipment into Lloyd Hall, which will be home to ten classrooms. The anticipation is building as the campus landmarks are coming back to life.
"Oh, I think it's going to be great to have everybody together, to have a buzz around campus. It would be wonderful," said Lucas.
Hardy Hall, Lloyd Hall, along with the Nursing building, should be ready when classes start on January 14. The only building that won't open in January is Elizabeth Hall. That restoration project should wrap up in March.
The faculty and staff are also moving into the $10 million Science Building this week. It will also open its doors in January. The three-story building sits on the northwest side of the Long Beach campus. It will have nine teaching labs, research space, faculty offices, and an 80-seat instructional classroom.
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