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Drury eyes big plans for Monett campus

Monday, August 8, 2011

An artist's rendering shows how a Drury University satellite campus in Monett could look by modifying the former Jumping-Jacks factory at Fourth and Front streets. The view would be looking east from Fourth Street. The drawing is part of 10-page packet being used by Drury to solicit donations for what is projected as a $7.5 million project. Drury has not committed to the project until fundraising is within reach of the goal.
Drury University has begun moving its satellite office in Monett to a temporary new location. University leaders have held meetings with key organizations and individuals in the community with an eye on establishing a large permanent campus in Monett's downtown.

Ann Saunders, Monett coordinator for Drury, said painting and the installation of a new heating and air conditioning system in the education wing of the former First United Methodist Church on Fourth Street are underway. Wiring has started for computers and fixtures.

Six classrooms are being prepared for the fall semester that will accommodate about 120 students in each nightly session. Sessions will be held from 4:20 to 7 p.m. and 7:10 to 9:50 p.m. Saunders said daytime classes will be introduced for the spring semester.

Drury's satellite campus has been located in the Southwest Area Career Center (SWACC). Summer classes have continued at SWACC through Aug. 6. By Aug. 15, Drury will have completed its move.

Saunders said Drury plans to expand its services and programs in Monett.

Saunders said Drury has served over 200 students and that number continues to grow. By the fall of 2012, Saunders hopes the number will reach 300.

Drury students have created an organization called the Drury MOB (Monett Outreach Board) to provide students opportunities for social, community philanthropy and service projects and intramural sporting events. There are plans to develop an intramural sports team and leadership opportunities. The students hope to develop new programming focused on social service and philanthropic work in the community.

"We have more and more traditional students," Saunders said. "We're trying to give them a traditional experience."

A Hispanic initiative has also been launched using current Hispanic students to help other Hispanics in the community with life issues that will empower people in their daily lives.

A community study headed by Dennis Edwards, a sociologist and adjunct faculty member, will be starting immediately to explore how educational opportunities can enhance local living. New classes will be offered in response and different times of the day considered to offer the greatest benefit.

Saunders said completing a four-year degree in Monett can mean a great deal to the community. Drury had its first graduate, Luis Cecenas, a 2007 graduate of Monett High School, matriculate through the Monett program this year. He took most of his classes in Monett and a handful in Springfield.

Many others have come into the program with transfer hours and have completed bachelor's degrees as well. Student Jo Kelleher took a grant writing class and used what she learned to successfully apply for a grant that helped fund a new van for Arc of the Ozarks.

"So many benefit from education," Saunders said.

Despite the broader role Drury will undertake at its new location, Saunders said a bigger picture is ahead.

"We intended this to be an interim location where we can really show what we intend to do here," Saunders said.

"Drury anticipates even greater expansion in years to come and is seeking a central education facility for that purpose," said Mark Miller, Drury's associate director of marketing and communications. "Drury continues to grow enrollment in Monett and is committed to the community's educational future."

The long-range goal of a permanent campus has already been shaped by Drury planners. A full campus with new buildings, establishing an unprecedented presence in Monett, has been put on paper. Presentations have been made to the Downtown Betterment Group and potential fundraisers for a number of months.

Glen Garrett heard the plan more than a year ago. Garrett and his wife, Sharon, assessed the idea and agreed to donate the former Jumping-Jacks building, on Front Street between Fourth and Fifth, to Drury for the new campus.

"A lot of work has been done checking the framework of the shoe factory building," Garrett said. "Engineers have found the building is extremely solid and passed every test."

Architects have developed a plan for the two-story building that places classrooms on the second floor along with room to rent and space for an event center. The first floor is envisioned for three classrooms, office space, almost 9,400 square feet for use by the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library, plus another 3,321 square feet for a downtown children's library.

Garrett said the plan would include taking off the west end of the building, which was converted into factory space from the original turn-of-the-century Martin Hotel.

The north end of the wood-framed structure would be replaced with a more permanent addition, made of poured concrete, like the rest of the building. The south end, at the corner of Fourth Street and Front, would be reshaped into an open courtyard for an impressive entrance to the campus.

Flood-proofing the building is also part of the plan.

The Garretts also own the former First United Methodist Church building and offered to rent it to Drury while fundraising and modifications are done on the larger building.

"I think it will be a great move for downtown Monett," Garrett said. "I have talked to community leaders in Monett who said if it had not been for the junior college in Monett, they wouldn't have gotten to college. John Q. Hammons was one of them.

"There are a lot of side benefits," Garrett said. "I think a college campus downtown presents a help to the businesses in town. It will help the potential employment for restaurants. Most restaurant help is college kids. When you talk to someone about bringing a meeting place to town, they ask 'Is there a college around?' Teachers need a place to live. It could be a great benefit to Jack Henry and every other business in town."

Drury has not formally accepted the gift of the Jumping-Jacks building. The university has chosen to pursue private solicitation of donations until the goal is within reach before committing publicly to the plan. The entire project is estimated to cost up to $7.5 million.

The delay has not concerned Garrett.

"Sharon and I are not backing off on our donation," Garrett said. "Sharon is on the Downtown Betterment board. This town has been awfully good to me and still is. We're honored that they want to come to Monett.

"The dean and the college leaders have been down and looked at the building," Garrett said. "They're very excited about it. Other satellite campuses are in a row of buildings. This stands alone. I think it's a move for Monett. I'm excited about it, and I know Sharon is."

The Garretts also own the parking area on the south side of Front Street, which they plan to make available to Drury for the campus.

"This project is a win-win for all the partners but, most of all, for the residents of Monett," said Monett City Administrator Dennis Pyle.

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