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Our Opinion: MSP makes progress

Our Opinion: MSP makes progress

February 6th, 2018 by News Tribune in Opinion

Two projects that have seen lots of discussion but little action over the years could be combined in an attempt to make them both become reality.

We were pleased to see the first meeting of the Missouri State Penitentiary Community Partners, which is planning the redevelopment of a 32-acre tract of the Missouri State Penitentiary. The Legislature last year approved a bill to convey the state-owned land to the city.

For some city leaders, progress at the old MSP has been painstakingly slow. After the prison closed in 2004, the state granted the city/Convention and Visitors Bureau permission to conduct tours on the property. Those tours have proven more successful every year, and have been a destination for people across the nation.

However, for more than a decade, local leaders have been stymied in their attempts to have the land conveyed to the city for redevelopment purposes. Proposals have included restaurants, hotels and shopping centers.

Now, the MSP group is talking about the possibility of pairing the redevelopment with another big-ticket item: a conference center.

For decades, city leaders have been involved in various stages of discussion and/or planning for a conference center, which they previously termed a convention center.

At times, it seemed like the project would move forward, only to go back to the drawing board or be dropped.

Would a conference center work on the old MSP grounds? Would a conference center work in the city at all?

Conference centers themselves often operate in the red and need subsidies. However, ideally, they raise the occupancy rates of hotels throughout the city. More heads in beds, as they say. It also would theoretically lead to more people in restaurants and more tourism dollars being spent overall. As they say, a rising tide floats all boats.

Being the seat of state government with the Capitol gives us an inherent advantage when competing for tourism dollars. However, the CVB has long said many groups wanting to hold conventions here can't, due to our limited convention space.

However, would it work in reality? Hopefully, the MSP Community Partners can determine the feasibility. We look forward to seeing the fruits of their labor.