Caddo Center project moves closer to completion

An architect rendering of the Caddo Center illustrates the phases of the project.

Renovation of Henderson State University’s Caddo Center is moving closer to completion. The former dining hall is being transformed into a consolidated center for student services.

The university anticipates the Office of Admissions moving into its designated area later this year, with the offices for financial aid and housing making the move sometime next year.

A series of grants from the Arkansas Natural & Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) has provided funding for the project, which began in 2016 with exterior repairs to the building, including roof replacement.

“The Caddo Center will serve as Henderson State’s front door and welcome center.  We are excited to have Admissions move in this fall,” said Bernadette Hinkle, vice chancellor for finance and administration at Henderson. “Once the next phase of the building is completed by the summer/fall of 2023, the Caddo Center will act as a ‘one-stop-shop’ for students.”

The Caddo Center, which was constructed in 1948-49, was vacated in 2013 when Henderson’s new dining center opened.

After considering possible uses for the empty building, Henderson submitted its first grant proposal and received $747,000 for the exterior repairs. Five additional grant proposals have been submitted, resulting in more than $5.5 million in total grant funds.

“We are very appreciative of the ANCRC grant funding, and look forward to serving all of our students and prospective students in the newly-renovated Caddo Center,” Hinkle said.

Ken Amburgy of SCM Architects provided a timeline for the grants.

  • Henderson applied for the first ANCRC grant in 2015, receiving $747,000 for 2016.

  • Applied for 2017 grant, receiving $950,000 for removal/demolition of materials and equipment.

  • Applied for 2018 grant, receiving $1.1 million for renovation of the entry and lobby area, exhibit hall and gallery, along with mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire suppression work.

  • Applied for 2019 grant, receiving $300,000 to finish the exhibit hall and gallery, and work on the interpretation room and public restrooms.

  • Applied for 2022 grant, receiving $1,190,861 to finish out the east area for admissions, along with an exit portico.

  • Applied for 2023 grant, receiving $1.4 million to finish out the south area for financial aid and housing, and the west area for other student support services. Site work for sidewalks is also included.

“The sixth grant was not fully funded,” said Amburgy. “This scope of work will be reduced and we are currently designing the ‘finish out’ for financial aid and housing.”

Amburgy said a seventh grant, or alternative funding, may be needed to complete the project.

So far, ANCRC has granted $5,687,861 for the project. No university funds have been used.

“Keep in mind, when you have to phase a project, it is going to cost more than when a project is fully funded and completed, start to finish,” Amburgy said.

Three contractors have provided the work for the various stages of the project, including Kinco Constructors (phase 1), CBM Construction (phases 2, 3, and 4), and Bell Construction (phase 5).

A bidding process will determine the contractor for the next phase, Amburgy said.

The Caddo Center currently houses the Joint Educational Consortium’s Hodges Collection of Native American Artifacts in the lobby gallery area. The collection was moved there in 2019 following completion of phase four.

The Arkansas Archeological Survey’s research station at Henderson State received two small grants to develop interpretation for the collection in Caddo Center.

The Caddo Center has 17,500-square-feet of space on its upper level, while the lower level is fully occupied by mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure, and secured storage for Native American artifacts.

When it was completed in 1949, the Caddo Center, which was originally named Caddo Commons, was considered one of the most modern cafeterias in Arkansas. The building and equipment cost approximately $175,000, according to Henderson State University: Education Since 1890 by Bennie Gene Bledsoe.

This illustration depicts the new home for the Office of Admissions.