The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

July 15, 2012

City outlines plan for CDBG funds

By Debby Woodin
dwoodin@joplinglobe.com

— Some projects proposed by Joplin’s master developer, including restoration of the historic Union Depot, would incorporate funding from more than $45 million in Community Development Block Grant funds given to Joplin for tornado recovery.

The proposed plan to spend the money still must be approved by the federal agency that awards the grants — the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

David Wallace, chief executive officer of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, has asked the Joplin City Council to authorize $8 million of those funds to be used for land purchases related to future projects, though those projects are subject to further study and economic analysis along with consent from the city before they are firm.

The Joplin Redevelopment 353 Corp., a city board that in the past has bought right-of-way for city street projects, would make the land purchases.

The bulk of the remaining grant money would go to three housing projects, city infrastructure improvements and renovation of the Union Depot.

The depot has been offered as a future home to the Joplin Museum Complex, but the museum boards have not committed to that move. If the museum does not want the site, Wallace said they have made contact with a company that would consider operating two restaurants in the building.

Restoration costs for the depot are estimated at $5.4 million.

A restored depot also is part of the SPARK (Stimulate Progress through the Arts, Recreation and Knowledge of the past) plan outlined by City Manager Mark Rohr before the May 22, 2011, tornado.

Other proposed uses of the block grant money include:

• $12.75 million for down payment and other forms of assistance to Joplin homebuyers who need help getting back into a home. Wallace said the goal is to build 400 houses that will cost about $100,000 each to help replace tornado-ravaged houses that were valued at about $60,000 but cannot be built now for that amount. The grant money will help homeowners bridge the gap.

• $9 million toward construction of multi-family housing in Joplin, both at market rate and for families that need assistance.

• $1.5 million for the repair of single-family homes.

• $6.5 million for city projects to repair or build infrastructure and to provide sidewalks and walking trails in the rebuilt tornado zone.

• $1.674 million in grant administration consultation costs and $453,000 for city administration of the grant. Rohr said grant costs are related to research in determining potential uses for the money. The money has to be audited to assure its uses are confined to those authorized by HUD.