Joplin group picks Texas firm for redevelopment

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — A citizens committee has chosen a Texas development firm that is working on projects in two other tornado-damaged cities, and which could bring $1 billion in private investment possibilities, to lead part of Joplin’s redevelopment effort.

The City Council will be asked Monday to approve the hiring of Wallace Bajjali Development Partners of Sugar Land, Texas, as master developer, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/Hj78xy). That means the firm would put together financing packages to construct projects and manage the development details.

The company was chosen by the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team from six firms that submitted proposals for the job.

“We will propose a resolution to the City Council on Monday to work on a development agreement, which will take some time,” City Manager Mark Rohr said this week.

Wallace Bajjali currently is working on redevelopment projects in Waco and Amarillo, Texas.

Waco was devastated by a tornado that killed 114 people in 1953. Nothing was built on the downtown site for more than 50 years until Wallace Bajjali launched a $350 million project to bring a university stadium, hotels, a convention center, student housing and other features to the area.

The firm also is directing a $113 million project in Amarillo to build a sports stadium, convention hotel and parking garage designed to invigorate downtown redevelopment.

Jane Cage, chairwoman of the Citizens Advisory Recovery Team, said the firm is willing to invest its own money in projects for Joplin rather than asking that it be paid a fee.

“We have about $1 billion of private-sector capital committed in letters of intent,” said Dave Wallace, the company’s CEO. “To bring that kind of private-sector capital injection can stimulate the economy like nothing ever seen before.”

Crossland Construction Co., based in Columbus, Kan., would be the firm’s construction manager and local companies would be hired to build the projects, Rohr said.

Rohr said the city hopes to pair public financing tools such as $45 million in Community Development Block Grant money with private investments to promote retail, commercial and housing construction. He said the city does not intend to raise taxes and Wallace Bajjali also has no plans to recommend tax increases.

Rob O’Brian, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, said the firm’s creativity and experience in public-private partnerships led to the recommendation.

“They’re visionary,” he said. “This is the time for you to dream of the many things that could be done,” including projects like a cultural arts center that was being considered before the May 22 tornado destroyed 7,500 homes and affected 500 businesses in Joplin.

Wallace said firm representatives have visited Joplin 11 times and watched the public input that went into the advisory team’s plan. He said citizens’ determination to rebuild Joplin in a creative way attracted the firm to the city.

Rohr said the city verified problems that Wallace Bajjali disclosed with two of its past projects. Those incidents involve a bankruptcy taken by some its partners in the Amarillo project, and fines paid to the Securities and Exchange Commission for investment fraud committed by two partners in a radio acquisition deal.

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