Regents Approve Feasibility to Build River Campus Residence Hall, New Academic Space

Photo of construction on River Campus residence hallCAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Oct. 19, 2012 – The Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents today approved the feasibility of building new academic space and a residence hall at the River Campus and authorized the administration to contract for design development services.

The Board also approved two resolutions declaring the University’s intent to reimburse certain projects costs with bond proceeds and to make arrangements for structuring and issuing bonds. A bond issue, however, would require future Board approval, said Kathy Mangels, vice president for finance and administration. She added that neither of the resolutions obligate the University to issue bonds in the future or require a specific amount of bonds to be issued.

Although the project is still in the conceptual design stage, a proposal calls for combining both new academic space and a housing concept into one building on the northeast corner of the River Campus property adjacent to the existing Seminary Building. An alternative option would be on the north side of Morgan Oak Street, according to Mangels, who said the Lawrence Group is assisting with evaluating potential sites, programming and construction costs.

The proposed design would be a four-story building, putting it at the same level as the existing seminary building. The new building would include a small basement area to house mechanical equipment. The first floor would include about 25,000 square feet of academic space along with a dining space for residence hall students, retail sales and special events. The plan allows for additional academic space near existing faculty offices and performance spaces.

The conceptual design calls for three floors of residence hall space that would house 150 to 180 students above the first floor academic space. The residence hall space would offer private bedrooms in a suite arrangement, a concept not available in the University’s current residence halls. The total number of beds is dependent on the final mix and configuration of unit types, Mangels said. The residence hall portion of the building also would feature a common lounge, laundry and exercise space.

Mangels said it is anticipated that bonds will be issued to finance the project. Preliminary estimates of annual room revenues and expenses indicate the project could support a maximum $20 million construction budget. She said annual revenues from housing contracts and meal plan commission from the proposed new housing plan will be used to meet annual debt service for the housing portion of the construction cost. Additional tuition revenue from increased majors in the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts will fund annual debt service on the academic space. No bonds will be issued without the Regents’ approval, she reiterated.

In order for the new housing component to be available in fall 2014, bids for site work would need to be let by February. If authorized by the Board, design development would begin this month and continue into November, and a final building layout and site plan, and documents indicating revenues at a level to meet debt services would be presented at the December Board meeting, Mangels said.

She said the new building is being considered as the University has seen a 73 percent increase in majors – 293 in fall 2003 to 508 this fall — in the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts since construction of the River Campus began in 2003. This has led to the need for additional instructional, practice and faculty office space.

The River Campus opened in fall 2007. Due to budget constraints, the facility design did not allow for the relocation from the main campus of all academic spaces associated with the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts, Mangels said. Space for programs such as ceramics, wood and metal working, and the practice dance floor remained on the main campus.

This increased demand also has prompted the University to evaluate the potential need for campus housing in this area, she said. The growing number of majors in the Earl and Margie Holland School of Visual and Performing Arts has created a student population that requires use of the River Campus facilities for extended hours, including rehearsals and work on student art. Southeast provides limited shuttle service from the main campus to the River Campus, but the facilities are locked at midnight.

Mangels said the University has been adding student housing in recent years in response to 18 consecutive years of enrollment increases. Merrick Hall opened in fall 2009, bringing Southeast’s total Residence Life system to 3,000 beds. Even with these additional rooms, the University was forced to defer enrollments for students seeking on-campus housing for the last three semesters. For the second year, Southeast also is using a floor at Candlewood Suites hotel for an additional housing opportunity for about 50 upper level students.

In October 2011, the Board approved the construction of a new 262-bed residence hall on the north end of campus, scheduled for opening in fall 2013, Mangels said. These rooms will replace the need for renting Candlewood Suites, offer additional rooms to meet enrollment demands and meet requests for single occupancy rooms. Southeast is contracted for only 12 private rooms this fall.

In an effort to assess academic space needs and housing opportunities at the River Campus, a request for qualifications was issued, and the Lawrence Group was engaged, she said. Programming meetings have been held with academic departments to identify and prioritize academic space needs to meet current and future program needs. This will include facility upgrades recommended to meet accreditation standards for theatre and dance, and music. Mangels cautioned that while this project is not intended to address all academic space needs, it will provide a master plan to guide future expansion.