WEST PLAINS, Mo. – Officials at Missouri State University-West Plains will host a ground-breaking ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday, March 31, for the Hass-Darr Hall renovation/construction project at the project site, 201 Garfield Ave., in West Plains.
The brief ceremony is open to all. Parking will be available in nearby university-owned lots.
On Feb. 15, members of the Missouri State University Board of Governors awarded the bid for this project to Cahills Construction, Inc., of Salem, Missouri, for $4,131,000 for the base bid plus all alternates. Cahills was the lowest of eight bidders.
The project, which has been in the planning stages for almost 20 years, was revitalized in summer 2015 when Missouri legislators passed a bonding package and former Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation authorizing approximately $300 million to fund repairs and renovations to public properties around the state. Included in that package was $1.5 million in funding for this project, which will renovate and expand West Plains’ former post office building.
The project took another major step forward in October 2015 when the university received significant gifts from Mary Hass Sheid, West Plains; Judge William R. and Jeanne Hass, Springfield, formerly of Thayer; Judge William T. Hass, Thayer; Tim and Missy Hass Myers, Bentonville, Arkansas; and William and Virginia Darr, Springfield. In recognition of their gifts, the facility was named Hass-Darr Hall.
Once completed, the facility will house the Carol Silvey Student Union, the William and Virginia Darr Honors Program, Drago College Store, tutoring services, the admissions office, the Veterans’ Center and other much needed classroom and administrative office space that will enhance student learning and academic success, university officials said.
“This facility has been needed on our campus for a long time,” Chancellor Drew Bennett said. “The vision for a facility that would bring together our growing academic support services and the honors program began in 1998 when an anonymous donor gifted a former church building at 120 Langston St. to the university. By the time Hass-Darr Hall is opened for student use in spring 2018, we will have been working on this initiative for 20 years.”
Over the years, the anonymous gift eventually was revealed to have come from Sheid. “Mary receives the credit for planting the seed that grew into Hass-Darr Hall,” Bennett said. “The project has taken many names and shapes over the years. When the church building was first donated in 1998, the intent was to use it to house programs that would enhance the campus experience.”
Reductions in state appropriations after 1998, however, kept the project on hold. In 2002, an architectural study on the building commissioned by the university determined that it would be more costly to renovate it than to replace it with a new one.
University officials then began to pursue funding for a new building, seeking financing through state and federal channels, as well as contributions from area residents interested in the project. Local contributions and proceeds from the January 2005 sale of the former church property were used as local matching dollars for appropriation requests. In 2007, funds for the project were eventually earmarked as part of the Lewis and Clark Initiative, which was included in the FY2008 budget bill, but a revenue shortfall at the time resulted in a withhold of the funding in 2009 which effectively put a halt on the project before it even began.
“There are many people who kept this project viable over the years, and we look forward to thanking them at the ground-breaking ceremony,” Bennett said. “We hope everyone will join us as we celebrate this long-awaited addition to our campus.”
For more information about the March 31 ground-breaking ceremony, contact the Missouri State-West Plains development office at 417-255-7240.