Missouri Southern is returning to its roots, with plans to open a campus in downtown Joplin taking a major step forward.

Following a one-hour presentation Monday evening, the Joplin City Council voted to proceed with plans to negotiate a five-year contract with the city attorney for the university to acquire the former Joplin Public Library building at 300 S. Main St. and an adjacent parking lot on Third Street.

The presentation was offered by Dr. Brad Hodson, Missouri Southern’s executive vice president; Nancy Good, president of the Missouri Southern Foundation; and Dr. Alan Marble, president of the university. The council viewed conceptual designs and heard how private giving would allow the university to transform the building into a home for one or more academic programs.

Over the last several months, representatives from Missouri Southern have worked with the city of Joplin and the Downtown Joplin Alliance to discuss the financial and structural viability of the proposal. Architects and real estate development consultants also weighed in on discussions, said Hodson.

“Having thoroughly studied the issue – from the infrastructure costs to the pros and cons of the idea – the task force determined that the building would be a great fit for the university,” said Hodson.

Hodson also shared Phase Two of Missouri Southern’s plans for a downtown expansion, which would include working with a private developer to acquire the Howsmons building downtown for additional programs and student housing.

Marble said he was pleased with the council’s interest in proceeding with the plans, as well the university’s partnership with the foundation as a means of continued growth.

“We want to continue to make advancements and be progressive with the expansion of our programs and facilities,” he said. “And the opportunity to return to downtown Joplin is one that holds exciting potential for the university and the Joplin community.”

The university originated as Joplin Junior College, founded in 1937, sharing a home with Joplin High School on the top floor of their building at Eighth Street and Wall Avenue.

Due to overcrowding, the college moved the following year to a building at Fourth and Byers, where it would remain through 1958. That year, it moved back to Eighth and Wall until 1967, when it became a four-year college and relocated to the Mission Hills estate – Missouri Southern’s home for the last 50 years.

The former Joplin Public Library building was built in 1980 on the site where the historic Connor Hotel once stood and opened to the public the following year.