Memorial Hall needs our love.
It also needs renovation.
A portion of the roof on the southwest corner of the building recently collapsed when a support gave way. City officials closed the building and hired a contractor to clear the debris, install temporary supports and to check the structure on the opposite side to see if there were similar problems.
Of course, these stopgap repairs should happen — though not yet open to the sky, it could become so, and water infiltration does truly terrible damage, particularly to older buildings — but more needs to be done.
The cornerstone for the building was laid Sept. 12, 1924. Memorial Hall was dedicated and opening ceremonies were held in October 1925. This editorial board has long advocated for the restoration of the structure built as a tribute to veterans who served in the Spanish-American War and those who died in World War I. Memorials were later added honoring those who gave their lives in subsequent wars.
The hall has been underused and in need of work for years. A way forward that renovates the building, restores it to use and provides for the ongoing maintenance of the hall is essential.
The city already is conducting a structural analysis and studying uses for the building.
The Connect2Culture arts organization has the first right of refusal on a future lease or purchase of the hall. Coordinating the use of the building with the operation of the Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex to be built on the parking lot that has served the hall seems like the right idea.
The maintenance of the building, or at the very least the preservation of the monuments in and around the building, should be a contractual part of any sale or lease.
We have also asked that city leaders consider implementing the Vision 2022 lodging tax proposal but using a portion of the funds collected for the renovation and maintenance of Memorial Hall. The proposal would increase the city’s 4% lodging tax to 6%. The average national lodging tax total is around 14%. Missouri's 4.2% accommodations sales tax plus the 6% city lodging tax would remain well below that number at 10.2%. There is significant potential revenue there.
We urge the city and the Joplin City Council to take up the proposal or present an alternative plan.
Shouldn’t refurbishing Memorial Hall be a priority? We owe it to those honored there, our service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.