The main concerns regarding the condition of Memorial Hall cited by consultants hired to review the building and recommend a plan for the restoration of the building were discussed at a meeting of the newly formed Memorial Hall Citizens’ Committee.
The committee was appointed by city council to work with city staff on the details of the Memorial Hall feasibility study developed by external consultants for building renovations and operating plans. The committee will then present this information to community groups as part of efforts to educate voters about the city’s proposed $ 30 million bond issue that will be put on the ballot on April 5.
In a meeting with city staff Thursday, the committee elected Bob Harrington and Dustin Parker as group co-chairs. Harrington is Commander of the American Legion Post. The Legion requested the hall’s original construction as a war memorial and obtained voter approval for the obligations to construct the building. Parker is a long-time member of the Joplin Parks and Recreation Council.
The biggest problem with the building is the old concrete, including the slabs on the east and west sides. “Over time, they started to deteriorate,” said Paul Bloomberg, the city’s director of parks and recreation. Memorial Hall is part of the operations of this ministry.
In addition, the foundation settling damaged the northeast corner and its exterior wall, where the building’s elevator is located. This prevents the elevator from working. Bloomberg said the foundation should be stabilized. These problems are the result of the deterioration of the 97-year-old concrete, installed during the construction of the building in 1925.
Part of the roof structure on the west side of the auditorium collapsed in June 2020, which contributed to the building being closed for public use. Corrosion related to deteriorated concrete in the roof structure was found.
There are crumbling mortar joints that have loosened some of the stone panels at the bottom of the building. Discoloration of the brick could indicate moisture problems, according to the report.
But Bloomberg said the building is considered to have “good bones.” It’s just the concrete ”that’s the problem, he told the committee.
Repairs and renovations could equip the building for flexibility of use.
Three public surveys were conducted as part of the study to determine what uses residents of Joplin and those in the immediate vicinity would like to see and what activities they would be willing to participate in.
The redevelopment and expansion of the building on the west side was designed with this public contribution in mind.
The plan calls for the auditorium area to be reworked with flexible seating that can accommodate up to 2,000 guests for art events or for activities such as meeting and banquet facilities that can accommodate up to 400 people.
The floor of the auditorium would be reworked and this space could be used for basketball or volleyball courts and other recreational purposes.
The annex could be used for meetings, banquets and recreational courses. Multiple events could take place in the auditorium and annex at the same time with movable walls open or closed depending on the space required for them.
Eighth Street would be closed to traffic and a plaza would be built, moving the exterior stone monuments of the Veterans Building to the plaza for better visibility. Events such as open air markets and festival type events could be held there.
When the consultants came up with these spaces and concepts, another survey was carried out and about 70% of those who evaluated the proposed plan accepted the recommendations, Bloomberg said.
Concerns cited in surveys included the availability of parking and how the building would be operated to generate enough revenue to cover operating costs.
The companies recommended a $ 25 million renovation and expansion of the venue. The design requires flexible spaces that include accommodation for stage performances, meeting rooms, banquets, entertainment programs and a variety of other events.
City finance director Leslie Haase has said in previous meetings that the city’s bonding consultants recommended that voters be asked to ask for more than the estimated $ 25 million construction costs, as the projects can lead to unforeseen expenses and increased construction costs due to inflation.
Due to these concerns, the ballot issue will demand up to $ 30 million, although Haase said at Thursday’s committee meeting that the additional $ 5 million would only be spent as needed.
If voters approve, the bond debt would be paid by the assessment of property and personal taxes. This could produce tax bills of $ 55.10 per $ 100,000 of market value on real estate and $ 19.23 for a $ 20,000 vehicle.
The committee will hear details of the proposed operating plans and revenues if the room is renovated at its meeting next Thursday.