Southeast's River Campus project takes shape

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Construction, which begin in full force in June, will continue through the winter.

Walls of masonry give shape to the new performance hall being built on the River Campus.

It's one of the most visible signs of progress in the continuing construction of Southeast Missouri State University's new visual and performing arts school.

University offices were closed Friday for the Christmas holiday. But that didn't stop construction work to develop a modern campus on the grounds of a former Catholic seminary overlooking the Mississippi River in Cape Girardeau.

The work -- involving 23 subcontractors -- includes new construction as well as renovation of the old brick seminary building, part of which dates back to 1843.

Construction costs alone are estimated at about $38 million. But engineering and architectural work as well as furnishings will put the total cost in the $50 million range, school officials said.

Construction work began in full force in June. The River Campus, southeast of the Fountain and Morgan Oak streets intersection, is scheduled to be completed by summer 2007 and open for fall semester classes.

Wet weather this fall delayed some of the new construction. Foundation work was slowed by the muddy ground, said Scott Meyer, facilities management director.

Renovation of the old seminary building is ahead of schedule, he said.

Construction will continue through the winter, Meyer said.

Construction crews have finished about 50 percent of the masonry work on the exterior walls of the 950-seat performance hall, said project manager Carl Cooper of BSI Constructors, which is supervising all the construction work.

The 100,000-square-foot structure will include the performance hall, a 200-seat theater, a regional history and art museum, art studios and a lobby connecting them all.

Workers will begin erecting structural steel in February, Cooper said. That could take four months to complete.

Construction workers gutted the inside of the historic seminary building for faculty offices and classrooms. A former chapel in the structure is being converted into a recital hall that will seat 150 to 200 people. The stained-glass windows will remain.

Thick concrete walls have been erected behind the ancient brick walls so the structure will withstand a major earthquake.

Crews drilled 41,000 holes in the brick walls to house metal support rods.

About 60 percent of the interior studs have been erected and workers have begun putting up the drywall.

The walls for the dance studio and small theater should begin going up early next year, Southeast's Meyer said.

Foundation work for the new museum should start in March or April.

The university still hopes to add a 5,000-square-foot, state-affiliated welcome center to the project. But that depends on securing state funding, Meyer said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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