The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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March 10, 2014

New library to be built separate from movie theater

The new Joplin Public Library will be constructed separately from a new movie theater at 20th Street and Connecticut Avenue, the Joplin City Council was told Monday night.

Plans had called for the movie theater to be built as a second-floor addition to the library, but interim City Manager Sam Anselm made the announcement of the change at a special meeting of the council. The announcement came during an update that Gary Box, the Joplin projects manager for Wallace Bajjali Development Partners, gave the council.

Anselm said the city staff will work on a request for proposals from consultants to work on a budget for construction of the project. “We’re pretty optimistic and enthusiastic to work on that,” he said.

He said the library staff and library board are in agreement with the change, and that the city staff would be meeting in the future with the library board about the response to the request for proposals.

The new library design will have about 50,000 to 60,000 square feet, up from the current library’s 35,000 square feet. A shortage of space and needed updates to accommodate technology are among the reasons the library board has sought a new library. The board also wanted to move to a more central location in the city.

Box told the council, “We’re on board with this. We feel there is enough space there” for separate library and theater buildings next to what is to be called the Joplin Towne Square retail development.

Anselm, asked after the meeting why the change was made, said it was the result of financial questions that city staff members had about the theater proposal.

Anselm said city staff discussions had gone on for about a year about how the combined project would work financially, but he said he would have to find out the details of those concerns before giving a complete explanation. “I think they had some trouble making the financials work from the theater aspect,” he said.

Anselm was appointed by the council last month to step in as interim city manager after a split council voted 5-4 on Feb. 4 to fire Mark Rohr. Anselm said the original intent of the proposal was to use the theater to help fund the library, “but that wasn’t going to work out for some reason.”

“I think we’ll still have the benefits of having both the library and the theater together, it’s just separate buildings,” he said.

The federal Economic Development Administration has agreed to provide a $20 million grant to the city to build the new library as part of Joplin’s economic development recovery from the 2011 tornado.

Box told the council that Wallace Bajjali, the master developer, will buy 13 properties from the city board that has amassed land for the projects, the Joplin Redevelopment Corp., by July 3, followed by other land purchases in August for the theater and retail project.

He said the firm has “identified several retailers” that are interested in locating in the town square, which the firm calls a “lifestyle village” because it will combine residential lofts over retail space where people can live and be close to stores, restaurants, the library and the theater.

Asked by the Globe outside the meeting if he could name the potential retail stores, Box said he could not. Asked if there is a deal yet with a grocery store chain to be part of the development, Box said negotiations are ongoing but that no chain has yet signed an agreement to locate there.

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