University to convert church into alumni, foundation offices

Monday, January 30, 2006

Southeast Missouri State University bought the First Baptist Church property on Broadway nearly three years ago.

Since then, it's converted the church's education building into a business innovation center and the church activities building into a student recreation center.

But the university foundation and athletics staff have had to wait on plans to turn the stately, columned church building into offices for alumni services.

The university purchased the church property at 926 Broadway in 2003 for $3.5 million. But it gave the congregation until the end of last year to move out. That deadline was later extended through the end of this month.

The congregation recently met that deadline, moving into a new church building at 1289 Lexington Ave.

As a result, school officials have started planning for the renovations needed for university offices.

The university plans to hire an architect to design the improvements, said Southeast facilities management project manager Tom Hadler.

He estimates the remodeling will cost about $1 million. "We want to have the construction complete and be ready to move in by early 2007," Hadler said.

Pews will be removed from the sanctuary, and that area will be converted into space for meetings and receptions, said Wayne Smith, vice president of university advancement and executive director of the school's fund-raising foundation.

The stained glass windows will remain.

Hadler said the former church has plenty of space. "The main auditorium is 3,800 square feet and then the little lobby at the front is 800 square feet," he said.

Hadler said the back of the building has three floors of office space which will be remodeled.

The building has about 4,300 square feet of office space on each floor. It already has an elevator which is essential for handicapped accessibility, he said.

School officials aren't sure what mechanical improvements might be needed in the building, Hadler said.

The third floor will house offices for athletics staff. Athletics staff offices are currently housed in limited space in Houck Field House, he said.

The other two floors will have offices for the university foundation and alumni services. Those offices currently are housed in a building on Sprigg Street near the Show Me Center.

School officials have talked about the possibility of moving KRCU radio studios or campus police to that building once the foundation and alumni services staff relocate. But officials said no decisions have been made yet on the future use of the one-story Sprigg Street building.

As for the former Baptist church, Hadler said a new entrance will be created to bring the public to the offices. "We are going to develop some type of nice entrance on the back side," he said.

With its numerous steps, the existing front entrance isn't easily accessible to many elderly alumni, Hadler said.

The project design needs to draw the public to the rear of the building, with possibly construction of a new entrance visible from beneath the breezeway that connects the new Innovation Center and the church itself, Hadler said.

The foundation's Smith said he's looking forward to moving into the old church. "It is just great to have a nice landmark like that be part of the university," he said.

The building was home to the Baptist church congregation for nearly 79 years.

335-6611, extension 123

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