By Debby Woodin
JOPLIN, Mo. —
A closed-door session was conducted Tuesday by the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to discuss authorizing the first land purchases related to $806 million worth of projects planned in connection with recovery from the 2011 tornado.
The board, citing an exemption in the Missouri Open Meetings Law that permits closed meetings for discussion of real estate transactions, was to talk about the purchase of tracts that likely would include those for the first of the projects, a $38 million building for the new Joplin Public Library coupled with a multiscreen movie theater.
In its open meeting, the board voted to allow its chairman, Ron Darby, to co-sign a request for a $20 million grant that is pending with the federal Economic Development Administration. It is intended to go toward the library construction. The City Council last week agreed to co-sign the application and commit the funds from the grant for the new library.
An appraisal of the 6.5-acre site where the library is to be located on Connecticut Avenue between 18th and 20th streets is to be accomplished this week.
Darby said the members of the redevelopment board, also known as the 353 Commission, are excited to help the City Council, the city administration and many other entities, including contracted master developer Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, with Joplin’s recovery from the 2011 tornado.
David Wallace, CEO of the development firm, said the work is not being done solely by the city and the firm. “This is the entire community standing shoulder-to-shoulder to not only build back, but to build back better,” he said.
He cited the cooperation of the eight banks working as a consortium to lend the redevelopment board $8 million in financing for the land purchases as an example of the effort.
“The financial sector coming together to help finance the rebuilding is really unheard of — not just here, but throughout the U.S.,” Wallace said.
The participating banks are Arvest Bank, Commerce Bank, U.S. Bank, Liberty Bank, United Missouri Bank, Pinnacle Bank, Southwest Missouri Bank, and Community Bank and Trust.
The consortium sends a representative, Stuart Puckett, vice president and loan manager of Arvest Bank, to represent the lenders at the commission meetings.
Bruce Anderson, of the development firm, told the board that the loan would be a six-month note. He said the board would be asked in its closed session to authorize the first group of land transactions based on the contingencies that the city will get liability insurance in place to cover the land within a few days, and that all due-diligence matters such as title searches and environmental assessments are successfully completed.
The loan is to be repaid with bonds issued on the new tax increment financing district the city recently approved to help pay for the projects.
Leslie Jones, the city’s finance director, told the board that the city issued a request for proposals for an underwriter to issue an initial $13 million to $13.5 million in bonds for property purchases. She said the $8 million loan would be paid from the proceeds of that bond issue.
The redevelopment board two weeks ago put on hold action on the EDA grant, the loan and property discussions because the city learned that its insurance did not cover the board’s business. The city has since acquired public risk insurance, which protects the board individually from lawsuits if any errors or omissions occur in its transactions. The city has found a company to issue liability insurance on its property acquisitions and expects a policy to be issued later this week.
IT IS PROJECTED that there will be a total of about $30 million in land purchases for the redevelopment projects.