The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

September 15, 2012

Downtown’s next step may depend on SPARK, tornado redevelopment

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some downtown businesses are thriving, some are moving and some have closed.

Joplin’s historic business district is anything but static, but its future may depend on redevelopment efforts proposed for the downtown and tornado recovery elsewhere in the city.

Nearly one-third of nearly 50 storefronts on Main Street between First and Seventh streets are for sale, for lease or inactive, despite an investment of more than $5 million in downtown streetscaping projects since 2006 and approximately $528,000 in city grants for improvements to storefronts.

City Manager Mark Rohr said via email last week that an effort is under way to push the downtown to the next level.

“I recognize the need to take the next step in downtown redevelopment. It has been a resounding aesthetic success but we are not where we need to be in making it a commercial success.

“That is the reason for, and the importance of, the SPARK project. We need a downtown destination for events that can spill over into the redeveloped downtown. Implementing the SPARK project is a priority for the master developer,’’ he said, referring to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners of Sugar Land, Texas.

Rohr introduced the SPARK plan — Stimulating Progress through Arts, Recreation and Knowledge of the past — just before the 2011 tornado.

Devised by the North Group, the proposal calls for a performing and visual arts center of about 150,000 square feet to be built near First and Main streets. The plan also includes an amphitheater, a Town Green and also could involve restoration of the Union Depot.

Tax credits

Early last month, the Joplin City Council agreed to take the first step toward applying for federal tax credits that might help finance some of the projects that are part of SPARK. The city is filing an application with the federal government to create the Joplin Community Redevelopment Fund, which could eventually administer tax credits the city might receive through the New Markets Tax Credit Program.

Under that program, taxpayers can buy credits to reduce their tax bills. The fund’s board could use the money generated by the sale of the credits to provide investment capital for economic development projects.

Some merchants in downtown Joplin say they are hopeful that step and others will lead to implementation of the SPARK plan, but they are remaining cautious until they see something concrete take shape. There are a lot of unknowns, they say, not only for the downtown but also because of ongoing redevelopment throughout Joplin, and especially for those areas recovering from the tornado.

“There is some uncertainty right now,’’ said Jeff Neal, with the Neal Group, which specializes in historic storefront restoration. “We are all waiting with anticipation that SPARK will happen as it is supposed to happen. Once the master developer’s plan is confirmed, funding is in place and those projects are moving forward, there will be a big impetus for people when it comes to considering the downtown as a place for a business or to live.

“Until that happens, it’s sort of holding everyone in limbo. But there is a feeling of opportunity and anticipation. When those plans are finalized, I think you will see a big increase in interest downtown.’’

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment

    After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog

    Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum

    National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.

    February 4, 2014

  • Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion

    The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.

    January 31, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos

Featured Ads
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief