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Southeast hoping hotel, Greek village will ease housing squeeze

Friday, March 30, 2012

(Photo)
Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus sits beyond an open field where a proposed hotel would go Thursday, March 29, 2012 along Fountain street in Cape Girardeau.
(Laura Simon) [Order this photo]
While a new residence hall opening in fall 2013 will lessen some of the student housing squeeze at Southeast Missouri State University, officials are hopeful partnerships to build a hotel and a Greek village could mean more space is on the horizon.

In fall 2011, the university enrolled 11,510 students and assigned housing contracts to 3,017, filling residence halls to the brim. University officials expect a growth rate in 2012 similar to that of the last three fall semesters, which was 3 percent. By 2014, total student population is expected to hit 12,000.

More students will mean the need for more rooms, and an answer to that need could come in the form of a hotel, said university president Dr. Ken Dobbins.

Dobbins introduced his idea for a hotel last spring. By the end of the spring semester this year, he is hopeful a request for proposals to help attract a partner and lay out the hotel's physical and financial plans will be complete.

A consultant is working on the proposal for the hotel, Dobbins said. He originally named fall 2013 as a possible completion date for the project but is now thinking 2014 looks more feasible.

"The thing is, we want to do it right," he said.

In order to do that, the university needs to make sure as many current and future needs for space as possible are met and that a financial arrangement with an operator and investor is possible, he said. Those things will be included in the proposal.

"We want to make sure when we put it out there that we have all the pieces that we need," he said.

The hotel would be built on two acres on the west side of the Fountain Street extension, with associated parking in a lot constructed on the east side.

Dobbins said the hotel would help the university meet needs of students and faculty by housing between 100 and 150 students and containing four to five classrooms, faculty offices, a ceramics studio, a performance rehearsal space and a restaurant open to the public and students with meal plans.

No physical plans are complete for the hotel, but Dobbins is developing a vision.

"I think it would be three or four stories, so more of a spread than a high-rise," he said. "The architecture also needs to fit with the River Campus, because it needs to look as if this was a planned community."

He gave the example of matching new brick used in River Campus construction to old brick in the seminary building. A possible cost of construction also has yet to be determined, but Dobbins said he believes it could be similar to that of one of the university's recently built residence halls. The style of the hotel would need to be determined to get a real idea, he said. The last completed residence hall, recently named Merick Hall, cost $23.7 million.

The university is looking at the funding for construction and operation as a future partnership. In a best-case scenario, the university would only provide the land on which to build the hotel and guarantee student beds full for most of the year. The land is already owned by the university foundation.

"I think we'll get all kinds of options," Dobbins said. "Right now we're not planning to build it by ourselves. We're looking at someone coming in and building it and doing a long-term lease."

An open option

There is, however, always a possibility that the university could do it alone.

"That's an option we'll keep open for now," Dobbins said. "What I do know is that we need another living option for students and we need a food service option for students."

An example of how the hotel could work exists across town, where 45 students are living in rooms this year at Candlewood Suites because a lack of space in campus residence halls. The rooms will be used again in the 2012-2013 academic year, and students living there will be joined by around 50 more in the fall when another floor is designated for student housing.

The two-floor arrangement will last only one year, according to Dr. Dennis Holt, the university's vice president for enrollment management and dean of students.

When the new residence hall being built on campus opens in July 2013, the university will return to using one of the hotel's floors to house students, Holt said.

Back on campus, dirt is starting to move on the site of the new residence hall, said Kathy Mangels, the university's vice president for finance and administration.

The new hall will be built north of the Seabaugh Polytechnic Building.

Mangels said university officials are going through final drawings with an architect and requests for bids will go out in mid-April. Bids should be received sometime in May, followed by awards on contracts and the start of construction early this summer.

The university is using $24.5 million in bonds to build the residence hall, which will house 262 students.

Another solution for overcrowding could come in the form of a Greek village. Mangels said a feasibility study for that concept will start in April.

"That will involve not only working with university officials, but fraternities, sororities, their alumni and their national chapters to talk about what those organizations would like to see for housing on campus, and what is feasible both for the university and those organizations," she said.

Officials hope funding and operation for the village concept could also come in the form of partnerships.

The deadline for students to submit housing contracts for fall is June 1. Admissions deferments for students who live outside a 50-mile radius of the campus and needed housing were used to control the overcrowding last year. The university's director of admissions, Dr. Debbie Below said now is a little early to tell if that measure will need to be taken again for the fall semester. The university will evaluate occupancy status as of June 1 to determine if it can continue to accept contracts, she said.

"As of this point, we think we will have sufficient housing, but it's just hard to tell," she said. "It will be very close."

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO

Fountain Street, Cape Girardeau, MO


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I do not want a Greek village near where I live.

-- Posted by FunkDaddy on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 9:36 AM

Will the hotel be exempt from Cape property taxes?

-- Posted by semowasp on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 2:25 PM

I am not sure any form of student housing off the main campus is a good idea. As it stands now, DFS does not patrol the main campus and resident halls adequately of an evening. This is evident by the complete lack of awareness of the parties going on in the Greek Housing complex area EVERY night this week. These loud bashes (complete with vulgar music and shouting) have been going on until 3 am this week. These disturbances fall under the nuisance party definition, yet, DPS seems completely unaware of their existance when you call them in the wee hours of the morning and ask them to go check it out. Then, DPS just assumes that because they stop by the party and ask them to turn the music down, that the party will stop. Every night this week the surrounding neighbors can tell when DPS goes by, as the music stops for 5 minutes, long enough for the DPS officer to drive away, then it starts right back up again. This is what the rest of downtown has to look forward to if ancilary student housing is built near the River Campus.

-- Posted by RightSaidFred on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 2:46 PM

Here's an idea: let your customers (students) stay where they want to stay. I doubt many, if any, really want to stay in student housing. If they had the option to stay in cheaper more affordable off campus housing, they would.

-- Posted by uberfan20 on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 4:59 PM

This student activity is also financial activity that benefits the entire community. While it is understandable that some will feel inconvenienced, put upon, or otherwise made to be unhappy by some of the activity, it is nonetheless a benefit for the entire Cape-Jackson region. I think the City should do everything it can to accommodate and even help grow the University's presence here.

-- Posted by fly_on_wall on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 5:18 PM

The hotel idea for student housing is a completely half baked scheme. How many business or leisure traveler wants to A. stay in a room surrounded by college kids and B. would choose to stay in that particular neighborhood of Cape? The Rose Bed B&B seems to do ok there but they are more of a niche product and only have a half dozen rooms to sell while this proposed hotel would have 50+ rooms to sell and isn't going to be offering the personal touch of a B&B.

Sure, they might sell a few rooms if the River Campus had a production that could attract an out of town crowd(or a romantic couples night out crowd).... but the River Campus primarily schedules events during the Fall & Spring semester when they can have students work and students buying tickets. So there goes what little demand their might have been.

There are colleges that run successful hotel/dorm combinations but all of them I am aware of are in areas that attract huge hordes of summer tourists. The concept works well if your college is near a beach in Florida or Hawaii(a state where it seems every college does this) but we do not have that sort of seasonal influx.

-- Posted by Nil on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 6:27 PM

I don't think this is the best area to build this hotel. The University should stay on campus with this instead of the south end of town, so it can be properly patrolled by campus police.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Fri, Mar 30, 2012, at 8:58 PM

We need a hotel by the casino (if anywhere), not by the River Campus. We already have a low hotel occupancy rate due to the economy and with gas so high, it will likely become worse.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 12:58 AM

Will the Greek Village be built on land currently owned by SEMO or will more be removed from the tax rolls for the purpose? Years ago the Greeks were spread out around the campus in houses they owned or rented and on which the town collected property taxes.

-- Posted by semowasp on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 3:48 AM

I hear that the greek village will go on the Sprigg and Bertling, land that SEMO owns (across from the Intermural Fields), that backs up on Sylvan Lane.

-- Posted by darkstar on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 7:35 AM

No beach Nil, but hey, it will be just a short distance from the second most toxic river in the country! That should be just as good, don't you think?

-- Posted by malan on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 10:00 AM

The college needs to do this alone. The town should in no way agree to partner with them on this using taxpayer dollars. I'm getting sick and tired of the college asking for taxpayer support. First of all this hotel is off the beaten track. Second of all, the motels out by the interstate are 5 minutes away. The gambling joint doesn't need a hotel because it will not draw the number of people that it expects. I-66 will not come through town either. I don't want another eyesore with empty parking lots 2 years from now. Leave the field alone.

-- Posted by Beaker on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 9:55 PM

Beaker, the gambling "joint" won't draw what it expects? I-66, even though a million dollar study has been approved, won't ever happen? I remember people saying that 90 stores in the mall would close in its first year. (30 years ago.) The Emerson bridge is never going to happen. I can go on. Don't be sooo pesimistic. Never underestimate the power of good old Cape Girardeau and Cape County. We've come a long way baby.

-- Posted by JungleJim on Sat, Mar 31, 2012, at 11:22 PM

The university "makes" money on the residence halls. That is why it makes students stay in these. Those days should be over. Let's let students live where they and their parents think best. It just galls me how the univeresity thinks they know what is better for our children than we do.

-- Posted by Whatacrock on Sun, Apr 1, 2012, at 3:14 PM

That million dollar study for the I-66 is just a facade to appease a few local politicians. The truth is, the more feasible route is about 30 miles to the south then through Sikeston, Poplar Bluff, and West Plains - Going through our town would be too invasive both for the natural lands across the river and for the cross streets in town. Putting hotel or motel at this location when we have more than enough rooms just five minutes away is creating risk that the hotel or motel would fail, being off the beaten track, and end up going through the failing life cycle and ending up like Sunny Hill.

-- Posted by Beaker on Mon, Apr 2, 2012, at 8:56 AM

Beaker, please consider that as Southeast grows, so does our community. An extra 12,000 people in this town does a lot for local businesses as well as the city. I don't mind them using some taxpayer dollars if in the end it is going to bring more students to the school and more prospective business to Cape Girardeau.

-- Posted by semo09 on Tue, Apr 17, 2012, at 10:11 AM


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