Work to begin soon on downtown College of Business, Besse Hotel 

With a new location chosen and funding secure from a combination of private and public donors and partnerships, as well as a grant from the Kansas Department of Commerce, work is poised to get underway on Gorilla Rising in Downtown Pittsburg. 

The project will move Kelce College of Business downtown, allowing upper-level business students to be embedded in the surrounding Pittsburg business community.  

It also will transform the historic Besse Hotel, which has been vacant for many years, into student apartments on the upper floors and a mix of public and office space, including the Center for Reading, on the first floor. Work began there this week to prepare it for renovation. 

Besse new

For the Kelce College of Business, a site previously home to the All Aboard Foundation at 216 N. Broadway was chosen. The existing building will be razed and a new building suited to today’s student and faculty needs will be built in its place. The site also allows for parking in a lot next to the building. 

The tentative original proposal was to build at Fifth and Broadway, but the concept shifted once the development team and community partners began sorting through details.  

“We are excited to finalize the location and get busy building,” said President Dan Shipp. “Our faculty, staff, students, and community partners deserve to have an exceptional learning environment that will help make both our university and our community stronger.”  

Kelce new

It is anticipated the new Kelce building initially will serve about 500 students. It also will be the home of the Business and Economic Research Center and the Professional Sales Center. Over time, enrollment is expected to grow, deepening the school’s economic impact in Pittsburg and the region.  

The City of Pittsburg is investing $10 million in the project over 10 years, including $1 million from the Revolving Loan Fund – the only taxpayer dollars committed to the project. Other sources for that total include revenue from gaming, interest payments on investments, and civil engineering work such as sidewalks and driveways that accompany new construction. 

“Our participation in Gorilla Rising allows the City to address several long-standing challenges in our community,” said City Manager Daron Hall. “The Besse Hotel has been vacant and falling into disrepair for too long. This renovation will save that iconic structure, preserving memories and laying the groundwork for new ones.” 

Hall said a new Kelce College of Business south of Third Street “will have a tremendous impact on our downtown, as well as addressing the ongoing parking challenges we face as Pittsburg continues to grow.” 

Students downtown

Shipp noted the importance of partnerships that work to benefit the entire community.  

“We have excellent public and private partners who believe what we believe: that it’s in our shared interest to build our futures together,” said Shipp. “The more we can connect our main campus to sites around Pittsburg and the region, the more opportunities we can create for families, students, and local businesses.” 

The construction phase is targeted to start later this year. University leaders anticipated classes starting there in 2026.