What's next in the conference center saga?

Jefferson City officials hope to move into negotiations

The Jefferson City Council is poised to move forward Monday with a proposed conference center project, potentially selecting the developer to construct and operate the facility.

The agenda for Monday night’s meeting includes further public comments on the selection of a potential developer, limited to three minutes each, and two separate votes; one on whether to advance the proposal from Ehrhardt Hospitality Group to the development stage and another on whether to advance the proposal from Farmer Holding Co.

On Friday, Mayor Eric Struemph said the council could opt to move both developers into the next stage or to reject both developers outright and end this process.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had two developers at this stage,” Struemph said.

Ehrhardt Hospitality group has proposed a $24.6 million conference center and hotel at the West McCarty Street site and Farmer Holding Co. has proposed a $36 million conference center and hotel at the Capital Mall site.

If the council chooses to move one or both developers forward, Interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert said the city would begin negotiations with the developer and start to nail down final numbers and a development agreement. Hilpert declined to give a firm timeline on that process, saying it depends on the proposal and what changes may be needed.

Struemph has voiced his preference for the Farmers proposal, saying it provides the best business model for the city, but noted he and the council would work with either developer to move forward.

“Right now, that’s the best business plan that’s on the table,” Struemph said. “People have to look at the true feasibility of both.”

Hilpert said the Farmers have spent the past six months to a year working on their tax increment financing district proposal that will help close the funding gap on their proposal. Because the Ehrhardts are requesting a state tax increment financing district, Hilpert said they can not even start the process of applying until they’ve been selected as a developer and move forward, meaning numbers from the Ehrhardts were unable to be as concrete.

“They haven’t quite identified the funding mechanism to make it work,” Hilpert said. “You’re dealing with a lot of contingencies.”

Struemph said he is unsure of how things will go Monday night, but he hopes to not see one particular outcome.

“To walk away Monday night with neither … that would be horrible,” Struemph said.

See also:

Conference center plans may hinge on funding mechanisms

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