Regents approve River Campus expansion project

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents has taken the first step toward construction of $20 million in new facilities at the River Campus.

Regents gave unanimous approval Friday for a project that envisions the combination academic space and student housing into one building at the northeast corner of the River Campus or, as an alternative, the north side of Morgan Oak Street.

Southeast president Kenneth Dobbins told the regents the River Campus, which opened in 2007 and home to the departments of art, music, theater and dance, is running out of space.

"Enrollments at the River Campus have doubled since its opening," Dobbins said. "With the growing number students taking advantage of majors at the campus, there is a need for expanding current facilities and also for providing a residence hall for students who spend a majority of their time there."

Dr. Debbie Below, associate vice president for enrollment management and Southeast's director of admissions, echoed Dobbins' concerns.

"The River Campus doesn't currently meet the needs of students who are fulfilling their majors there," Below said. "There are students who put in exceptionally long hours at the River Campus who then must find a way back to the main campus before the last shuttle leaves. It would be beneficial to them, and the university, for there to be more room for study and for residence."

The new building is being considered as the university has seen a 73 percent increase in majors in the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts since construction of the River Campus began in 2003. The project, while still in its conceptual-design stage, seeks to address the issue of overcrowding with a four-story building near existing faculty offices and performance spaces, along with a basement to house mechanical equipment.

The first floor will contain 25,000 square-feet of academic space that will include a dance studio and more room for choral rehearsals. A dining area for students in residence also is envisioned for the first floor.

Tim Rowbottom of the Lawrence Group, a building design firm headquartered in St. Louis addressed the regents and said his firm had been studying the River Campus for a few months.

"I foresee three floors of residence halls above the new academic space that could provide anywhere from 150 to 180 beds for students. Our firm will recommend an extra 65,000 square feet for that to become a reality."

Kathy Mangels, Southeast's vice president for finance and administration, said it is anticipated for bonds to be issued to finance the project. She said preliminary estimates of annual room revenues and expenses indicate the project could support a maximun $20 million construction budget. However, she stressed that approval for any bond issue will have to come in the future.

"Giving initial approval to the construction plan today in no way obligates us to immediately issue bonds," Mangels said. "That can only happen with the express approval of the board at a later date."

Mangels gave a target date for completion of the new building as August 2014.

In order for the new academic and housing component to be available by that date, bids for site work would need to be let by February. If authorized by the regents, design development would begin this month and continue into November. A final building layout and site plan, along with documents indicating revenues at a level to meet debt service, would be presented to the regents in December.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address: 1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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