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Conference center plans to be unveiled

Public invited to see three developers’ plans Thursday

A special City Council meeting will be held this week to unveil three proposals for a conference center in Jefferson City.

The meeting, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, will be the first time the public will be able to see the proposals submitted to the city earlier this year.

Three developers have submitted proposals for a conference center, which will be funded by a voter-approved lodging tax that is estimated to allow for a $9 million facility.

• Ehrhardt Hospitality Group, based in Hannibal, has proposed the facility at the West McCarty Street site;

• Drury Development Company, based in St. Louis, submitted a proposal for the West McCarty Street site, the old Missouri State Penitentiary site or any other site that meets city requirements;

• Farmer Holding Company, a local developer, has proposed the facility at the Capital Mall.

City Administrator Nathan Nickolaus said Thursday’s meeting will allow for the council and the public to see the full concepts and will begin the process of really comparing the proposals to see what would work best for Jefferson City.

“It’s the first seeing of it,” Nickolaus said. “I would almost describe it as a kick-off.”

Nickolaus said the concepts will be fairly general because the city will not hold the developers to every detail so early in the process.

He said the plan is to have a series of public hearings throughout June to gather more input from the community on the proposals, as there likely will not be much input right off the bat Thursday.

“I don’t anticipate a lot of public input, if any, on this first evening,” Nickolaus said. “I hope we can stir up a fairly large crowd (for Thursday).”

Mayor Eric Struemph said he’s very excited to see the proposals Thursday and the rest of the month will be spent trying to figure out what the best business model is for the community.

“Which location, which developer would be best for our city in the long run,” Struemph said. “We really need to look at growth in the long run.”

The council also recently authorized a contract with Johnson Consulting, a firm out of Chicago, to operate as facilitator for the project. The scope of services includes facilitating staff evaluations, public evaluations and evaluations by experts in the field and invited stakeholders, as well as providing a presentation of proposals, recommending methods of evaluation for the council and facilitating the council to a final decision.

The contract, which is for $28,750 to be paid out of lodging tax funds, will have the facilitator working with the city throughout the month and the council hopes to make a final decision on the proposals by July 1.

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