Encouraged by a cast of civic and commercial leaders testifying on its behalf, the Puri Group Enterprises Hospitality Inc. (PGE)'s Truman Hotel Urban Renewal Plan won the unanimous support of the Jefferson City Council Monday night.
Presented in the form of a resolution, the vote represents the final action necessary by the city before the $56 million construction project ignites a renaissance to the two large parcels along Jefferson Street now occupied by the former landmark Ramada Inn. In more recent times, the complex functioned as the Truman Hotel.
Vic Puri, the executive vice president and general counsel of PGE, and a couple dozen supporters sat in soggy shoes and soaked suits after dashing into City Hall through an unexpected deluge just before the opening of the meeting.
The Council heard more than 30 minutes of discussion on the resolution introduced by Ward 5 Councilman Larry Henry, acting as chairman of the Council's Public Works and Planning Committee. All comments offered on the project Monday were positive.
While most of the comments were voiced by individuals with a direct or indirect interest in the new Puri venture, attorney Nicholas M. Monaco offered testimony "as a private citizen interested in the future of Jefferson City."
He cited reasons common to several of the witnesses: "Additional employment; reactivate an outdated once important facility; increase sales and occupancy taxes; improve accommodations; encourage travelers to make Jefferson City a destination; promote added convention space for more than 100 state associations in Jefferson City; provide added opportunity for students and young people to find employment; (and) enhance the appearance of a major artery."
Those who went to the podium to endorse the PGE plan included former Mayor George Hartsfield, who has been acting as a pro bono shepherd for the project; Craig Lammers, chief executive officer of the YMCA; Jason Verslues, representing carpenters and contractors; former Housing Authority director Randy Halsey; and other community leaders.
After passage of the crucial resolution, Puri said he was pleased with the Council vote and with the words spoken on behalf of his project. The owner of the 151-room Double Tree by Hilton in downtown Jefferson City, among other hotels in Central Missouri, Puri confirmed the 131-room hotel and restaurant included in his current urban renewal plan would bring the Holiday Inn brand back to Jefferson City. He declined to identify the brand of the 125-room hotel which will sandwich the new 20,000 square foot conference center between the two hotels and restaurant.
The Council action Monday night followed the recommendations of the Jefferson City Housing Authority, which adopted a resolution Jan. 17 approving a request from PGE to declare the Jefferson Street Ramada Inn/Truman location blighted. That Housing Authority resolution stipulates that PGE will eliminate the blight by constructing new hotels on the site under terms of a contract which requires PGE to commence construction no later than 90 days after the plan is approved by the city. The redevelopment contract also dictates that PGE will complete the work within 18 months.
The contract, which provides for 10 years of tax abatement for PGE, says, "The Housing Authority recommends that the City Council find the area to be blighted and approve the Truman Hotel Urban Renewal Plan."
The Housing Authority will vote on approval of the tax abatement at its meeting at 7:30 a.m. today at its offices at 1040 Myrtle Avenue.
When asked Monday night for an assessment of the roller coaster journey of the Truman Hotel project, and the many months necessary to get to this stage, Puri nodded, offered a modest smile and said, "Thank you."