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Puri presents conference center plan

Promises no ongoing subsidy

The Jefferson City Council heard an alternate proposal for a conference center Monday, which urged the council to not settle for proposals previously submitted.

Vivek Puri presented the plans of the Puri Group to transform the Truman Hotel into a conference center to match the city’s stated requirements.

Last month, the Puris announced in a News Tribune article their intent to submit a proposal to the council for a conference center, but the council is in ongoing contract negotiations with two other developers for conference center proposals.

Council members have stated their intent to follow through the process that began last fall and have indicated they would consider the proposal from the Puris only if the proposals from Farmer Development and the Ehrhardt Hospitality Group were rejected.

Puri said Monday the group understands they are not being considered in the current process and have no desire to “be moved to the head of the class,” but wanted to offer an alternate proposal.

“We understand that we are not in consideration,” Puri said.

Puri detailed the proposal, noting the three most important aspects of the proposal would include more than 200 rooms, 40,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and no ongoing subsidy.

The city is offering a $9 million contribution from lodging tax collections to help fund the development of a conference center. In previous meetings, the potential need for an ongoing subsidy outside of the $9 million contribution was not ruled out by the Farmers and the Ehrhardts, but a majority of council members have indicated their opposition to any ongoing subsidy.

Puri said the group met with several members of city staff in November 2011 to discuss the possibilities of building a conference center in Jefferson City. Puri said the group proposed a site and submitted a memorandum of understanding four weeks later, but it was never introduced to the council.

Puri said the group received no response from the city, which, a month later, began detailing the request for proposals process to seek conference center plans. Puri said the group felt “somewhat stabbed in the back. But that was then, this is now.”

Puri urged the council to consider all factors and asked them not to settle for what has been submitted by the Farmers and the Ehrhardts. He added that the group would accept the council’s final decision, regardless of the choice they make.

In other business, the council approved a resolution stating the city’s continued support for the preservation and redevelopment of the old Missouri State Penitentiary, which was recently closed to tours because of mold.

Mayor Eric Struemph and Interim City Administrator Drew Hilpert plan to meet with state officials on the issue this week.

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