EDWARDSVILLE – Lewis and Clark Community College opened the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities (MJCH) this December, but the former Lincoln School building is only one facet of a major development planned for Edwardsville by 2017.
The “big picture” includes a 1,200-seat conference center, hotel, parking garage and STEM Center. Ed Hightower, executive director of the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation (MJCHF), said plans are to have the whole thing operational by 2017.
“This complex is a major undertaking, but its purpose has the potential for moving humankind toward progress and solutions for our increasingly pluralistic and polarized society,” said Lewis and Clark President Dale Chapman, who also serves on the MJCHF’s Board of Directors. “We must learn to listen to our neighbors from around the world, and develop a better understanding and appreciation for their struggles and concerns.”
Lewis and Clark currently holds an option on the property where Rusty’s sits, across the street from the Center. A future phase of the project will include a parking structure on that property, as well as the preservation of the remnants of one of the oldest brick buildings in Madison County.
The conference center and hotel are slated to be built along North Main Street just northwest of the current building, and an existing brick building along North Main will be utilized for the STEM Center, which will aim to incorporate math, science, technology and engineering into the humanities. Hightower said MJCHF Director and President Mannie Jackson has already acquired those properties and has been a huge supporter of the project that bears his name.
Currently, the Center includes a 140-seat ballroom and a 60-seat conference room, which are available for rental by the public for business meetings, small weddings, conferences, holiday parties, family and high school reunions, with optional catering provided.
The project is expected to add $81 million in economic growth and 846 jobs to the area, Hightower said.
“The economic impact of this project on the region is enormous,” said Robert Watson, chair of the L&C Board of Trustees and a member of the MJCHF Board of Directors. “It’s great that Lewis and Clark is able to play such an integral role in that effort.”
The purpose of the MJCH is to conduct activities that promote mutual understanding and respect among people of different cultures, races, ethnicities, religions and other distinctions, and influence positive social change. These activities will include a lineup of major speakers, outreach programs and more.
“The Center will be used to inspire youth through education, and it will serve as a place where major speakers and influencers from across the country will draw thousands of visitors to the Madison County region,” Hightower said. “We’ve gotten away from the value systems of family and respect. The Center can be an incubator for discussions, at all levels, that can help get people thinking again.”
Ret. U.S. Gen. Colin Powell was recently announced as the Center’s first major speaker. Powell will be the keynote speaker for the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation Inaugural Dinner on March 31, 2016 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Meridian Ballroom.
The MJCH will hold a public open house event from 1-6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 7. Visitors are welcome to tour the building and learn more about the community spaces available to rent, as well as what to expect from the MJCH.
“I have faced many societal challenges during my life. The formation of this Center will result in programs that give people a better understanding of societal differences and how we should embrace those differences,” Jackson said. “Without that understanding, people throughout the world will continue to have conflicts with other cultures.”