SEMO regents to consider additional locations for River Campus expansion

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Come October, Southeast Missouri State University officials will look at several scenarios when they consider future expansion of the university's visual and performing arts campus.

An architectural firm, the Lawrence Group, is developing multiple plans for the addition of a 150-bed residence hall and academic space near the River Campus, which it will present to the university's board of regents at an October meeting. Original plans for expanding the River Campus called for a possible hotel/residence hall combination on university foundation-owned acreage along the Fountain Street extension, but that idea was dropped by university officials in the spring at the same time they announced planning for a residence hall, classrooms and studio space would continue moving forward.

Now the university is looking at an additional location as an option for expansion based on advice from the firm -- a northeast corner of the River Campus property that contains the oldest handball court west of the Mississippi River. University officials say the handball court, built circa 1843, is not structurally sound.

Kathy Mangels, the university's vice president of finance and administration, said a structural engineer is evaluating the condition of the court, which has a tall brick wall.

University officials say the plan to locate a new residence hall and classrooms in that area could require the court's removal, although a portion of it could be incorporated into the design of the new space.

University president Dr. Ken Dobbins said if preservation of the court were included in plans for that location, he has concerns about the cost, but that the university will still consult with local historic preservation specialists before making any final decisions.

Dr. Steven Hoffman, the university's historic preservation program coordinator and a professor of history, said the court may be included as a contributing resource for the Seminary Building of Old St. Vincent's College's designation on the National Register of Historic Places. The Seminary Building is now a part of the current River Campus' total layout. If the court is considered a contributing resource, the university may have to take part in a Section 106 review. Section 106 of the Historic Preservation acts requires some government agencies to take into account the effects of their undertakings on historic properties. A review was required when the university built the River Campus, Hoffman said.

Mangels said the option of using several locations for expansion remains open.

The university is looking at a two-part plan for the development, which would include a master plan for construction and use of the space and the phasing in of academic programs currently held on the main campus.

"With growing enrollment, we haven't been able to take everything over there that we wanted to," Mangels said.

A tentative completion date for a new development would be fall 2014. Architects said the development's physical form has not yet taken shape but its look would likely be more reminiscent of a traditional college campus than the modernity of the current River Campus buildings.

An additional project to be included in the renovations of Academic Hall also received approval from the board Monday during a specially called meeting.

The university plans to add an open-ceiling mezzanine with a conference room, small kitchenette and restroom to a level of the building between the third floor and the dome that will contain a glass ceiling and a spiral staircase leading to a walkway around the dome's interior.

Mangels said the cost of the project is around $1 million and will be funded with leftover bond money that results from the bids for the renovations coming in under budget. The university decided to add the project to plans now because the building's interior and exterior are already undergoing major renovations.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

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