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A pair of stone gates welcome Missouri State University visitors onto the soon-to-be Bear Boulevard at the corner of National Avenue and Monroe Street. MSU is designing a $4 million welcome center for the southwest corner.
A pair of stone gates welcome Missouri State University visitors onto the soon-to-be Bear Boulevard at the corner of National Avenue and Monroe Street. MSU is designing a $4 million welcome center for the southwest corner.

Bear's Den

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Passers-by at National Avenue and Monroe Street may have noticed new signage from Missouri State University as two stone gates emblazoned with the school’s name now greet visitors to the campus. With a $180,000 price tag, President Clif Smart calls the addition the “unofficial entrance” to the Queen City’s largest higher learning institution, but Smart said the gates are just the first step for the Springfield campus.

With the December hiring of Springfield-based Dake Wells Architecture Inc., the public university plans to construct a $4 million welcome center at the intersection’s southwest corner, in what is now a parking lot, by the end of 2014.

“We are working on a new front door for the university,” Smart said. “Who are we? Right now we are a parking lot and The Monroe, which previously, wasn’t even owned by the university.”

The MSU Board of Governors last fall approved the purchase of The Monroe, an on-campus privately owned apartment-style complex at 1141 E. Monroe St., from United Campus Housing LLC for $8 million. Smart said plans are underway to rebrand the facility this summer.

Funded with 60 percent private donations and the remainder through reserve funds, Smart said he envisions the 11,000- to 12,000-square-foot welcome center as the east bookend to campus.

“The idea is that all visitors to campus will travel through this building,” he said. “Right now, they are trying to find admissions on the second floor of Carrington Hall and that can be confusing. There is no central location to go and it leads to students and parents lining the halls of Carrington and waiting.”

University Architect and Director of Planning, Design and Construction Doug Sampson said administrators would like the building to be the “transparent eye into campus.”

“We don’t want a glass box out there baking in the sun, but rather a transparent design that says who we are, what we do and welcome to our home,” he said. “Our address is 901 S. National. If you look that up, or are using a GPS device, you are going to reach your destination and be greeted by a crosswalk barrier on National. That’s just not very inviting.”

Project architect Andrew Wells said while design work is still emerging, the university has a few, very specific goals in mind.

“This project needs to be a strong visual both during the day and at night,” he said. “It needs to tie in with the other stone on campus, but also stand out from the pack. We are paying close attention to our materials pallet on this project. We want to make a high impact.”

As the new home of the university’s student orientation, advisement and registration program – SOAR – Wells said the building is slated to include special features such as interactive displays with university information and history, a 100-seat auditorium and large entryway sidewalks.

“The goal is to get this building to work in the same manner for a single student or a couple parents to a large group,” he said.

Sampson said the building will have minimal office space, housing only three offices and staffed with mostly student workers.

“Admissions personnel will need to be on hand, but we are not moving the admissions office,” he said. “We want this building to be flexible and accommodate other needs the university might have, such as press conferences.”

Effective July 4, the city of Springfield approved the renaming of East Monroe Street, between National and Kimbrough avenues, as Bear Boulevard. Sampson said the new name fits with the university’s goals.

“This project is not driven by the academic calendar, so we can take our time with this, make it a special building and make sure it meets our needs,” he said.[[In-content Ad]]


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