By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
The former Coca-Cola Bottling Co. property has been purchased by the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., though a purpose for it is yet to be disclosed.
Located at 1301 Virginia Ave., it has been vacant because the cola distributor moved to a new plant in the Crossroads Center Business and Distribution Park.
The purchase of it had not yet been disclosed by the JRC, but it was listed in mortgage documents filed this month with the Jasper County recorder of deeds. Those show it as one of the properties securing an $8 million loan the JRC has obtained from a consortium of local banks for redevelopment projects to be done by the city’s contracted master developer, the Wallace Bajjali Development Partners.
Gary Box, the firm’s Joplin project manager, confirmed the purchase. Asked if there is a purpose designated for the property, Box said he could not comment. “The reason being is, at this point, it is unspecified,” Box said. “We may have a potential use for this, but I’m not at liberty to say.”
The sale price was $495,000, according to the city’s finance director, Leslie Haase.
Asked how much the JRC has spent so far on land purchases, she said that as of Thursday $5,364,322 has been paid out for land purchases and $57,000 paid in interest on the loan. There have been approximately 40 land purchases so far. The loan is due to be repaid by July 31 with proceeds from a sale of bonds sold on the city’s recently enacted tax increment financing district that takes in the tornado zone and downtown.
The county records show that the Coke site purchase closed on May 22.
A number of previously disclosed properties are listed in those county records, including some tracts on 20th Street from Connecticut Avenue to Carolyn Place. That is to be the site of a new Joplin Public Library and movie theater complex to be owned by the city and adjoining a retail/loft center.
Asked how soon construction will start on that project, Box said work is being done to issue a request for qualifications for an architect and engineer to design the site and the buildings.
Asked whether a theater company has committed to the project, Box said, “All along we have had one that said if we build it, they were coming. We have had several others inquire about it. There are some major ones showing interest,” he said, adding that there is appeal to the project because of the “unique concept” of connecting a theater and library.
The JRC also has purchased a block on the northwest corner of 26th and Main street for a retail and loft project. A number of tracts also has been bought on the southwest corner of 26th Street and Maiden Lane for a senior transitional living village.
Box said there are a number of steps that go into preparing and building a project.
“We had to spend a lot of months to get funding in line,” such as the loan and a TIF district. “Once that was done, we started the amassing of properties.”
He said some people have questioned why Range Line reconstruction is developing more quickly. “A lot of those companies already owned their own property and had a building design,” such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. “All they had to do was fit it to that lot. That’s why everything moved at such a rapid pace.”
The master developer projects must advance in stages by first getting the approval of the City Council to start, then getting site development approval by the JRC, acquiring land, having a site design and building design drawn, and then again presenting the final proposed plans for city approval.
“I know that it’s frustrating,” Box said. “A lot of people are thinking it’s two years past the tornado. But it wasn’t until last August that the City Council approved our overall proposal and we’ve only been acquiring properties since March.
“Give us a chance. Nobody wants to see these projects built more than me. Once it starts, several projects will be started at the same time.”
County records show that Dr. Michael Joseph has purchased the Joplin Flea Market properties in the 1200 block of Virginia Avenue, next to the former Coke plant. His property manager could not be reached on Thursday in regard to plans for the properties.