BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - What started as a dream for Tulane University's Mississippi Gulf Coast campus eight years ago is finally coming to reality. On Wednesday, Tulane unveiled plans to move to a larger campus, but it's not going too far. Tulane's new campus will be right across the street at the old Books-A-Million space at Edgewater Village.
"Tulane University has made another commitment to the Mississippi Gulf Coast by investing in another new campus," announced Tulane University Mississippi Gulf Coast Associate Dean Dr. Karen Lucas.
It is a $2 million investment that will turn a vacant facility into a new home for Tulane University's Coast campus. The announcement came as a surprise to many in the crowd.
"They did a really good job of keeping it a secret from the students," said Tulane University senior Tony Alves.
Tulane opened at Edgewater Mall in 2002. It has long outgrown that space.
University leaders have considered various sites to relocate and expand, including the old downtown Gulfport library, Centennial Plaza in Gulfport, Tradition and the old federal courthouse in downtown Biloxi. They didn't have to go far to find the right location.
"I drove around one day and saw it and thought that may be the perfect space," said Lucas. "It was in plain sight. We just needed somebody to open our eyes and say, "Will this work for you?'"
The larger facility at Edgewater Village will allow Tulane to double in size, providing space for 16 state of the art classrooms and academic study areas. It will also provide three computer labs, conference rooms and a student lounge.
Alves looks forward to being among the first students to attend classes on the new campus.
"I can't wait to see what they do with the place, especially like computer labs are so important for college. To see they're going to be upgrading those, it's going to be great," said Alves.
"We'll be able to accommodate more students on a daily basis. We may be able to offer a greater variety of courses than we do now," said Tulane University math instructor Tom Clarke.
Construction will begin on Thursday. Classes on the new campus will start this fall, right after Labor Day.
"When they walk in here, it's going to feel very much like home, because it will be built in Tulane tradition. So, they will feel like they were back home again," said Lucas.
Tulane leaders say a larger campus will allow them to serve 500 daytime students and 500 nighttime and weekend students. They can also offer more courses and programs. For instance, this fall, the campus will host the new Doctorate of Social Work program, the only such degree in the southeast region.
"This move fulfills the hopes of graduates and of our current students, and believe me when I say the dreams of our faculty and staff. This move recognizes the impact that Tulane University has upon the lives of our students, who in turn, make a difference in the life of this community," said Lucas.