A consultant-posed $25 million renovation and expansion of Joplin’s 97-year-old Memorial Hall could provide a building that the community could use nearly every day for activities such as exercise classes, theatrical productions, meetings and banquets.
At a Monday night special meeting of the City Council, those who prepared a feasibility study of the hall detailed their recommended renovation as well as use ideas and costs.
Brian Garvey of SFS Architecture in Kansas City, the consultant on the project, said the plan included an assessment of existing problems with the building, such as a sagging exterior corner. That and the roof along with the replacement of the front entry ramp are some of the things that can be replaced or reconstructed, Garvey said.
“All in all, the structural assessment of the building was not as bad as some folks may have thought it to be,” Garvey said. “It’s actually a very solid building. There’s just some things that need to be stopped in their tracks with any project that occurs in the future to make the building safe and prepare it for another 100 years of service to the community.”
In addition to repairing the foundation and a cracked wall along with the roof, the proposal outlines remodeling to provide a number of flexible spaces that could provide room for things such as daily dance or exercise classes or a stage production with seating for 1,600.
Garvey said the investment would be significant. Construction of the full renovation and addition to the west side of the building would cost $19 million plus $6 million for furnishings and equipment. Renovation of the main hall would be $18.6 million with $14.2 million of that construction and the purchase and installation of furnishings and equipment at $4.7 million.
Construction of the addition on the west side of the building would be $6.4 million, with $5 million of it in construction and $1.4 million for furnishings.
Funding sources outlined by the architect include:
• Tax-based revenue sources such as property taxes, sales tax or use taxes.
• Historic tax credits that could cover up to 45% of eligible costs.
• Partnerships and private donations.
While Garvey presented the renovation proposal, Darin Barr, of Ballard King Associates, outlined the details of a market study his firm conducted, including revenue and expenditures projections for the city to operate the renovated hall and provide programs there.
The recommendation of those consultants for its renovation and uses was based on input they received in three public meetings and three public surveys as well as their research of the building’s history and ways it has been used by the community.
Garvey said the hall was built in 1924 for less than $250,000 and since then has had “overwhelming support from the community. It has been a place for veterans. It’s also been a place of culture,” where theatrical productions, rodeos, circuses, school events, dances and other events have been held.
“It’s been about community,” Garvey said. “It’s been whatever it needs to be for the community,” including serving as medical triage site for people injured in the 2011 tornado.
Garvey said the building was built as the result of efforts by the local American Legion and has since served the Legion and other veterans. Because of that historical significance, a meeting room for the Legion would be moved from a windowless basement room to a second-floor executive-type meeting room with views over that area of downtown and what would become the adjacent Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex, Garvey said.
Barr explained that, based on revenue and expense projects, “cost recovery is going to be a challenge. It will require an updated rate structure” on city programs and recreation offered, he said. In the first five years of operations, he projected that the city would recover about 40% to 44% of the operating costs with conservative use and 70% to 76% of its costs with aggressive marketing and uses. The project could reach full cost recovery in the third year aggressive marketing of renovation and addition.
After the proposal was outlined, council member Diane Reid Adams said that with up 2,000 people in the building and only seven accessible parking spaces for the disabled, “that’s not adequate.”
Garvey said that he has talked to city officials about the possibility of providing on-street parking. “That is the single biggest concern and issue,” he said of the parking situation. He recommended that the city conduct a parking study to determine how more parking could be provided.
Councilman Phil Stinnett questioned whether one small elevator would be sufficient. He thinks one elevator could be overwhelmed in a crowd. Garvey said that the plan includes ramps to and from the lobby and auditorium, while an elevator would still be required to access the second floor.
He also asked how much revenue was projected from entertainment events because area casinos provide competition for those events and that could affect revenue.
Barr said he estimated that those types of large events would only be held 20% of the weekends a year.
“My biggest concern is not only how do I pay for it, but I’ve got to see a pathway to support it,” Stinnett said.
City Manager Nick Edwards asked the council if it wanted to commission a parking study.
Mayor Ryan Stanley said he thought the city should put out a request for bids for a study and then decide based on the price.