The new construction is visible to motorists crossing the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge.
As crews erect masonry walls for the 950-seat performance hall, work proceeds on the foundation for a smaller theater and a dance studio.
Wet weather this winter has slowed the foundation work, said Scott Meyer, facilities management director at Southeast Missouri State University.
But renovation of the old seminary building is ahead of schedule.
The university's new River Campus is scheduled to be completed by summer 2007 and open for fall semester classes. It will house music, art, theater and dance classes.
Construction began in full force last June. Construction costs alone are estimated at $38 million. But engineering and architectural work, and furnishings will bring the total cost to about $50 million, university officials said.
Construction crews by mid-January had finished more than half of the masonry work on exterior walls of the performance hall. Workers will erect structural steel starting in February, said project manager Carl Cooper of BSI Constructors which is supervising the construction work.
Walls for a dance studio and a small theater should begin going up early this year, Meyer said.
The 100,000-square-foot structure will include a performance hall, a 200-seat theater, a dance studio, regional history and art museum and art studios, as well as a lobby connecting them all.
Foundation work for the 14,000-square-foot museum should start this spring, he said.
The university hopes to add a 5,000-square-foot, state-affiliated welcome center to the project. But school officials have yet to secure state funding for it.
Southeast officials continue to make their case to the Missouri Transportation Department in an effort to secure the approximately $1 million needed to build a welcome center.
"We will be looking at the next round of funding," Meyer said. "I think that begins this spring."
The uncertainty over a possible welcome center hasn't held up the rest of the project.
Passing motorists can see the new construction taking shape on the site at the intersection of Fountain and Morgan Oak streets.
What they can't see is the massive amount of construction work inside the historic brick seminary. Part of the building dates back to 1843.
Construction workers gutted the inside of the old building. They drilled 41,000 holes in the brick walls to house metal support rods and added thick concrete walls to help protect the structure from a severe earthquake.
Crews installed interior studs. By December, workers had begun putting up drywall to create faculty offices and classrooms.
Meanwhile, work continues to turn a former chapel into a recital hall that will seat 150 to 200 people. The chapel's stained-glass windows will remain.
Twenty-three subcontractors are involved in the project.
The school has relied on a complicated tapestry of city tax money, university donations, state and federal money and bonds to fund the project.
Southeast has relied on $36.3 million in revenue bonds issued by the Missouri Development Finance Board to move ahead with construction.
The state already has shelled out $4.6 million for the project. But the university needs $17.2 million in added state funding to help pay off the bonds.
If necessary, the university will impose a fee on students to retire the bonds, school officials said. But university president Dr. Ken Dobbins remains optimistic the state will come through with the needed dollars.
City motel and restaurant tax money and university donations also will go to retire the bonds.
The city pledged $8.9 million to help fund the River Campus. The city's share is being funded by state finance board bonds. The city is making monthly payments to the university, currently more than $82,000, to retire its share of the debt.