Southeast readies for River Campus construction

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Southeast Missouri State University plans to award 23 different construction contracts to build its River Campus arts school starting this summer.

Fourteen of the contracts, with a total cost between $20 million and $21 million, will be awarded within the next few weeks and new construction could begin later this month, project officials said Tuesday.

Bids on another nine construction packages -- including seating for the planned performance hall -- came in higher than expected and project officials are working to trim those costs before awarding the final contracts, said Lisa Howe, project manager with Southeast's facilities management department.

"We would like to trim off hundreds of thousands of dollars," facilities management director Scott Meyer said of the nine construction contracts in question.

The 23 construction contracts are expected to total about $35 million, Howe said. But the total price tag to develop the River Campus on the grounds of a former Catholic seminary overlooking the Mississippi River will be higher when construction work already underway is included.

The university is spending more than $3 million on that work, which includes development of Terrace Park, demolition work, some earthwork and structural work to keep the historic brick seminary building from collapsing in a major earthquake.

Adding in funding for contingencies, the total price tag could be more than $40 million, Meyer said.

Howe said Southeast is working with BSI, the St. Louis firm that is managing the construction, to help cut costs.

That could include using different equipment or construction materials, she said.

Won't cause delay

School officials said the effort to trim costs on the final nine construction packages won't delay start of new construction. The contracts are ready to be awarded on the initial steel and concrete work, officials said.

"Everything should line up," said Dr. Dennis Holt, vice president of administration and enrollment management at Southeast.

The new construction will include an 80,000-square-foot theater building, a 14,000-square-foot regional history and art museum and a 5,000-square-foot welcome center, all under one roof with a shared lobby.

The university divided the project into a series of construction jobs in an effort to secure more competitive bids and involve local contractors. The university even held a meeting with local contractors to encourage them to submit bids.

Under a settlement agreement between the city of Cape Girardeau and local businessman Jim Drury, the university is required to use local contractors where possible.

About 37 contractors submitted bids on different parts of the project. Fourteen came from local contractors, Howe said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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