By Debby Woodin
Directors of the Joplin Museum Complex are eyeing property donated to the city by Mercy as a site to relocate the Joplin Museum Complex.
Public support is being sought for the idea, said Allen Shirley, president of the Friends of the Museum board. He said proponents will attend input sessions on Thursday at City Hall during which public ideas for the use of the site will be sought.
“That is a location we’ve looked at ever since Mercy made it available,” Shirley said Tuesday. “Now, with the city receiving Housing and Urban Development money, I’ve been given the idea that could help pay for a museum there.”
The city has received two HUD grants through its federal Community Development Block Grant program of $45 million and $113 million. It ascertained late Tuesday whether the museum project could be funded by CDBG funds.
Shirley said he has been soliciting support for the idea of using the Mercy site for a museum.
“I’m getting signatures on a petition to tell them there is a lot of public interest for the museum to be there,” Shirley said. “I’m asking that anybody who wants to come to please be at one of the meetings and voice their opinion.” The meetings will be at 3 and 6 p.m. Thursday in the basement of City Hall, 602 S. Main St.
David Wallace, chief executive officer of the Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, Joplin’s contracted master developer, announced Aug. 12 that Mercy had offered to convey 13 acres to the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. for some type of public/private use such as a community center. The site is roughly where Mercy had previously offered the city nine acres for a tornado memorial.
City Council members had agreed earlier that a tornado memorial might better be developed by a nonprofit group or foundation. A city tribute to volunteers has been built across the street in Cunningham Park, which is to be the site of a future butterfly and healing garden dedicated to tornado victims and survivors.
The Joplin Redevelopment Corp. is the city’s land bank for redevelopment projects. Wallace said Tuesday that the legal documents to convey the land to the JRC were completed on Monday as part of the board’s effort to secure enough property in the tornado zone to apply for the state’s Distressed Land Assemblage Tax Credit Program.
Wallace had told the council earlier there is a list of possibilities for the land, and the eventual use will be up to residents. “There is a lot of discussion that needs to take place on what the community wants to place there,” Wallace said at the Aug. 12 meeting.
The museum had been offered the Union Depot in 2010 but had expressed a number of concerns about locating there. Some board members had expressed concern about whether the basement of the old railroad depot could be kept dry from water leakage that exists there now. They also were concerned about whether vibration from passing trains would damage museum artifacts, and whether train noise would be a nuisance to museum visitors.
Museum representatives had told Wallace they did not want the Union Depot location, which is part of the city manager’s proposed downtown cultural and performing arts complex.
Voters turned down a proposal in 2010 to impose a sales tax of one-sixth of a cent to remodel Memorial Hall as a site for the Joplin Museum Complex and to support its operation there.