Drury University is on the search for donors to help transform its campus over the next 25 years.
A Nov. 6 unveiling of a new campus master plan to a room full of officials, faculty and students came after six months of the school’s work with New York City-based architecture and design firm Cooper Robertson & Partners LLP.
“What you’re going to see here today we hope will stir people’s blood,” Drury President Tim Cloyd said in Bay Hall, where the plans were revealed.
The planners say an additional 700,000 square feet could be added to the campus, said David Hinson, Drury’s executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief information officer.
“We currently have 1.2 million square feet under roof,” he said. “We have a significant amount of growth potential we can have here on this campus without having to extend the footprint. We want to make do with what we have.”
At this stage, the project is without an estimated cost or a budget – and Hinson said that’s where donors come in.
“We wanted to dream big first,” Hinson said, adding the projects will be funded solely through donations. “We’re testing the capacity of our donor base to contribute to this Phase I project, and that will really dictate the scope as we build each phase, so there’s just not a price tag on it.”
Hinson told Springfield Business Journal the 25- to 30-year plan is structured in phases, with the first beginning in early 2018.
Phase I includes improvements to the school’s streets and landscaping, as well as the addition of a new student life center and a Design Enterprise Solution Center that would eventually house the university’s Breech School of Business.
The master plan also includes clearly defined campus edges to create psychological thresholds and entrances, establishing a residential precinct to the north end of campus and an innovation precinct to the south. Drury Lane would close to traffic and be used as a pedestrian mall, Hinson said. Further aspirations also identify campus intersections as “nodes” with specific landscaping, way-finding and architecture, and reimagining Central Street as a linear park that tells the history of the school and Springfield.
“Drury has been critical to Springfield,” Cloyd said, noting the city would help in the reconceptualization of Central Street, what he called the third-oldest street in the city. “It’s about us, together, as a community.”
More campus additions in the master plan include a new residential quad, indoor recreation and athletic facilities, and a rebuilt Lay Hall.
Drury hired Cooper Robertson & Partners in April, and last month, the university’s board of trustees reviewed the firm’s report.
“If you understand anything about academia, that is indeed warp speed to act in that period of time,” Hinson said. “They not only met expectations, but they exceeded them.”
The board approved the report unanimously, trustee Thomas Stout said at the event.
“Anybody that’s been around a board of 40 people – to get 40 people to agree, it has to be a pretty exciting proposition,” said Stout, the past president of Carrollton Specialty Products Co. and S&K Industries Inc. in the northern half of Missouri.
Cooper Robertson officials wasted no time making it to campus, Hinson said, and quickly established a weeklong charette – an intensive face-to-face design session. He said the firm had the help of 18 different constituencies, including trustees, students, faculty, the city of Springfield and Springfield Public Schools.
Hinson said key questions were explored: “Cooper Robertson asked them straight up, ‘What is it that you want from this master plan?’ What is it that they think about when they say the name Drury University?”
John Kirk, a partner and principal architect at Cooper Robertson, said red brick and white stone came to many minds.
“A consistent pallet of materials creates a glue,” Kirk said, noting any new structure designs would emulate the current architecture, a look Cloyd called “collegiate gothic.”
Kirk credited the vision and boldness of Drury’s leadership in the master planning process, particularly pointing to Cloyd’s experience as president of Hendrix College, in Conway Arkansas, where he previously served.
“He learned the importance of having a master plan, so when new projects are approved, there’s a larger vision. Things don’t get placed just wherever,” Kirk said. “The best clients make for the best projects.”
Hinson joined Cloyd at Hendrix in 2011 to 2014, just in time to see the results of the school’s master plan. He said the economic impact of the plan was strong, nearly doubling the school’s enrollment.
University officials declined to disclose the amount paid for the firm’s work.
Cooper Robertson’s recent projects include a museum and visitor center this year for the Gateway Arch and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The firm also developed a master plan for Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, in 2016.
Next up for Drury is hiring a construction team, which could begin early next year. “We’ll have an open process, a bidding process, where we’ll invite firms from Springfield and across the country to come,” Hinson said of the parallel approach to connecting with Cooper Robertson. “We have many qualified graduates from the Hammons School of Architecture, so we would love to have their participation on these projects.”
Cloyd said he anticipated enrollment growth as a result of the plans, though not much.
“We will always be a small, intimate, connected university offering students solid liberal arts and professional and career preparation combined,” Cloyd said. “If we grew to be 10,000 students, it would transform the culture we want to offer.”
Drury University Provost Beth Harville said the school’s average class size is 19 students. She also said the school will need to undergo a transformation in academics, in addition to the physical transformation.
“The most important thing about the master plan is not the buildings themselves, but what goes inside the buildings,” she said. “The new, physical spaces will be informed by current programs, planned future programs and research-based modern pedagogies.”
Hinson, after the event’s presentation, spoke to Drury’s dwindling enrollment concerns. During the fall 2015 semester, enrollment dropped by 9 percent to just over 1,300 students. Enrollment has since rebounded, currently at 1,425 students, a 4 percent increase from 2016.
“Part of the purpose of a master plan is to extend the shadow of the institution. It gives us visibility far beyond southwest Missouri. It gives us national visibility,” Hinson said.
“The success and execution of this master plan will have an attractive factor for new students coming here.”
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