POPLARVILLE – Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Pearl River Community College campus, construction is finally beginning on buildings to replace those lost to the storm.
Work has started on Lamar Hall, a 108-bed residence hall to replace a 60-bed dormitory damaged by Katrina.
Crews should break ground before the end of the month on an addition to historic Moody Hall where the storm demolished the auditorium.
“Those are our first significant re-builds from Katrina damage,” said Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president. “From the perspective of the college becoming totally healed, it is a huge step to see the dirt moving.”
Architects' renderings of new buildings at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville include, clockwise from top left, Lamar Hall men's residence, Ethel Holden Brownstone Performing Arts Center, Marvin R. White Coliseum and an addition to Moody Hall. PRCC Public Relations
Hurricane Katrina on Aug. 29, 2005, wrecked PRCC’s Marvin R. White Coliseum, ripped the roof from the Moody Hall auditorium and seriously damaged Lamar Hall. Although the residence hall was patched up and used for several semesters, building inspectors recommended closing it because its infrastructure was deteriorating.
The new two-story Lamar Hall will feature suite-style rooms, including two handicapped-accessible rooms, a three-bedroom, two-bath apartment for the residence director and common areas on both floors. It is expected to be open by the fall 2011 semester.
Rod Cooke Construction of Mobile is building the $3.96 million facility financed by insurance.
The hurricane damage to Moody Hall’s auditorium forced its demolition in December 2006. Moody Hall, built in 1926, is the oldest classroom building continuously in use at a Mississippi community college.
The three-story addition will be built on the site of the auditorium and face River Road.
“We just got the notification to proceed on Moody Hall,” Lewis said. “We expect in the next two weeks to break ground.”
The addition should be finished by the beginning of the 2011 fall semester. Mac’s Construction of Hattiesburg is building the $2.26 million building which will be paid for from insurance funds and state bond money.
“It will give us a permanent home out of the temporary facilities that have served their purpose,” said Archie Rawls, chairman of the Department of Fine Arts and Communication. “While it hasn’t been terrible, it will certainly be nice to have the department all in one place.”
PRCC’s music and theater classes and offices were moved to temporary trailer facilities after the storm. The art department has been located since 1995 in a building constructed in 1957 for the metal trades program.
The first floor of the Moody Hall addition will provide an art display area along with music classrooms and studios. Speech and theater classrooms and offices, a conference room and Rawls’ office will be on the second floor. The third floor will house art studios, classrooms and offices.
“An elevator that will access all of Moody will be a welcome addition,” Rawls said.
The loss of the Moody Hall auditorium forced PRCC’s fine arts programs to stage performances in Olivia Bender Cafeteria and Malone Chapel, neither of which was built for concerts or plays.
Lewis hopes that within the next two years, PRCC will open the Ethel Holden Brownstone Center for the Performing Arts.
“The plans are under final review by the Bureau of Buildings and Grounds and should be on the street for bids within the next 60 days,” Lewis said.
The center has been in development since 2003 when PRCC received $4.7 million from the estate of Ethel Holden Brownstone, a graduate of Pearl River County Agricultural High School.
Approximately $4 million has been held in reserve for the performing arts center. PRCC also received a $350,000 Building Fund for the Arts grant in 2007 from the Mississippi Arts Commission for the center. Additional funds will come from the Katrina insurance settlement.
The center will include a 1,000-seat auditorium, state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment and a dining area suitable for dinner theater performances. It will be built on the current band practice field. Lewis expects construction to take around 18 months.
Still to come is a new coliseum, which will also bear the name of Marvin R. White, who served as college president from 1968-1986.
“We have come to an agreement with FEMA and the plans are currently being developed,” Lewis said.
FEMA’s standard policy is to replace the footprint of a building. However, changes in building codes since the coliseum’s construction in 1972 mean the new building must be 8,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet larger than the old, Lewis said.
He hopes groundbreaking on the new building will be held early in 2011 and expects construction to take about a year and a half.
Construction costs will be paid from the college’s Katrina insurance settlement along with FEMA funds. How much FEMA pays will be determined when the bids are let.
Mississippi Power Co. crews install the electrical feeds Monday for construction of Lamar Hall on the Pearl River Community College campus.
PRCC Public Relations photo