The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 15, 2013

Master developer briefs Joplin City Council on recovery projects

Retail center envisioned next to new library

By Debby Woodin

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s new library and theater complex would be located next to a future retail and grocery store development if the proposed concept succeeds.

The city’s contracted master development firm has placed options on 14 to 16 acres between 18th and 20th streets, east of Connecticut Avenue, and would like to secure a total of 22 acres to construct what is planned there, said the firm’s CEO, David Wallace. The library and theater complex and a parking garage for it would take about eight acres. The proposal is described as a village concept of retail stores.

“We are having ongoing discussions with major retailers to locate there,” Wallace told the Joplin City Council at a meeting Monday night.

Wallace said developers are working with a large grocer to perhaps put a store in the development, but he did not identify the grocer.

Spokesmen for the Dillons supermarket chain, which operated a store only a few blocks away at 1402 E. 20th St. before it was destroyed by the 2011 tornado, and Hy-Vee Inc. did not return telephone calls Tuesday asking if one of them intends to locate there. Hy-Vee previously considered locating in Joplin at a site near 32nd Street and Range Line Road.

The sources of capital for the proposed tornado redevelopment projects have been identified, and Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is now working on putting in place the details of those plans.

In the case of the proposal to build a new Joplin Public Library and movie theater, Wallace said the financing budget involves $20 million in grant money from the federal Economic Development Administration plus $17.5 million in revenue bonds from a tax increment financing district the city approved last month. It also would include $500,000 worth of land acquired for the project.

The bonds would be issued by the TIF district entity, and the city would not be the obligated party for the bonds. “It would not be a security interest of the city at all,” Wallace told the council.

Representatives of the firm have been meeting with residents of the area to discuss the project with them and get their input on how it would affect them, he said. There will have to be some type of sound insulation system to reduce theater noise. Wallace said that would involve either insulating the theater walls or construction of a fence barrier along the landscaped perimeter of the development.

Councilman Bill Scearce asked who will hold the title to the property. Wallace said a subsidiary of the city will be created to hold the title, and that the library will have a 99-year lease on its building.

The developer has a theater operator that wants to locate there, but, because it’s a city project, the theater operation will have to be bid out.

If the selected theater operator would go out of business, “The city would own the theater free and clear, and could find another operator,” Wallace said in response to a council question.

Wallace Bajjali Development Partners also is proposing what officials characterized Tuesday as a downtown education complex for the current library site at Fourth and Main streets. It would cost about $79 million to build.

Wallace said the architect for the multistory building created a design that hearkens to the style of the former Connor Hotel that once occupied that site. It was a brick and steel neoclassical styled building embellished along the main floor with an exterior of arched limestone columns.

The Wallace Bajjali firm’s timeline calls for the downtown building to be in place by the end of 2016.

Work also is being advanced toward some of the residential projects in the developer’s $806 million worth of projects aimed at overcoming the six-mile-long scar of devastation left by the 2011 tornado.

One of those is senior transitional housing with sections built for those who can live independently, those who need assistance and those in need of memory care. Wallace said a national company has transacted a letter of intent for that project, and sites are being looked at for possible construction. A conceptual design for the project calls for it to be a gated community on 30 acres with walking trails and green spaces. Meetings among investors, operators and partners are to be held today to discuss details.

Another housing program, the Principal Reduction Program aimed at providing affordable housing, is advancing. The Salvation Army is considering providing some funds to help eligible applicants with some of the cost. That program has been approved by the board of directors of the local Salvation Army chapter and now goes to the national headquarters for final action, Wallace said.

The developer also has a meeting Jan. 23 with the director of the Missouri Housing Development Commission to ask that it increase its funding to provide 10 percent of a home’s purchase price for down payment or closing costs instead of the current 5 percent.

Local homebuilders have been invited to enroll as eligible builders. About 200 lots have been contracted for the program. Homebuyers approved for the program will choose the lot where they want to build and the homebuilder, Wallace said. The developer does not plan to build any speculative housing, which could sit unsold.

The developer also has secured $45 million in funding to build a new consolidated post office and government office building. Talks are being conducted with the U.S. Postal Service and the Missouri Office of Administration about the consolidation proposal. Offers have been made to buy a number of parcels of land for the proposed project on Main Street, Wallace said.

Public meetings

DEVELOPER DAVID WALLACE has said public input sessions will be held as more steps are taken toward construction of the projects.