As Jefferson City and state lawyers work to finalize the transfer of roughly 32 acres of Missouri State Penitentiary land to the city, Mayor Carrie Tergin is working to create a group that would help redevelop the soon-to-be city-owned property.
Gov. Eric Greitens approved the transfer of 31.82 acres of the old prison to Jefferson City in July.
Although it is unknown when the conveyance will be finalized, Tergin plans to update the Jefferson City Council on the process during its Monday meeting. She said she wants to hear the council's thoughts before the city starts working with the state, Cole County, the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau to create a group that will move redevelopment plans forward.
"We're getting ready to move forward with the group that would really start the work of identifying the development, identifying how that works in the current master plan, identifying how we want to move forward and selecting a developer," Tergin said. "They'll figure out what (the development) should look like and how that should be so that we can get that request out (to developers) and come up with a timeline."
Ryan Burns, director of communications for the Missouri Office of Administration, confirmed the state and city were still working through the conveyance terms. Even though the conveyance discussions are complex, she said she would "expect to have some forward progress in the coming months."
Tergin said she has received approval from OA to start creating the redevelopment group.
While the city, county, state, chamber and CVB have to discuss the specifics, Tergin said, the individuals in that group would look at criteria in a master plan — created by a redevelopment commission in 2001 — and decide what parts of the master plan the city wants to implement.
The master plan — which encourages hotels, retail shops, offices and the MSP Parkway — will be a guide for redevelopment.
After identifying criteria from the master plan, Tergin said, the group would discuss how to move forward, talk with developers and get proposed plans from a developer. The group then would recommend a development proposal to the City Council, which would decide whether to move forward on the proposal.
Ward 5 Councilman Mark Schreiber was a deputy warden of operations at MSP and was on the redevelopment commission. He said he is excited for the city to redevelop the 32 acres and that, along with the prison and improvements to Capitol Avenue, will help restore that area of Jefferson City.
"We've got a unique opportunity here to blend the historical old with the potential new," he said. "If we get the right developer and put the right kind of project there, whatever that might be, then we have a really grand opportunity to bring jobs and regeneration of the whole east side (of Jefferson City)."
Tergin said the new group will be different than the original redevelopment commission, though.
"We're working with the reality that we have now before us, this opportunity where the land is being conveyed as we speak," she said. "This is real; whereas before, it was more of a concept. So when Mark was on (the redevelopment commission), they had a goal that they were hoping for conveyance. And we're very fortunate, all the work we've done up to this point, that we have conveyance now."
Senate Bill 486 — sponsored by state Sen. Mike Kehoe and carried in the House by state Rep. Mike Bernskoetter — passed the Senate in March and House in May before going to Greitens for final approval in July.
Tergin told the News Tribune in July the parkway in the MSP master plan is the first feature the city will start working on.
The parkway would use 4.4 acres. The Lafayette Street right of way would use 1.5 acres, while the railroad takes up 6.2 acres. This would leave 19.7 acres for the city to develop.
About 128 of the site's 140 acres are undeveloped. The state would control 95 acres to the east while the city develops the 32 acres it will own.
The historic buildings used for prison tours will not be impacted by the land conveyance and will remain in the state's possession.
The gas chamber will be located on the city-owned 32 acres, but the state will retain ownership of it. The chamber would still be used for prison tours, operated by the Jefferson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The CVB leases the prison from the state for tours. The number of visitors grew from 3,000 the first year in 2009 to 33,000 last year. In 2016, the tours brought in about $648,000 in revenue, the CVB told the News Tribune in July.
MSP was operational for 168 years, from 1836-2004, when prisoners were moved to the Jefferson City Correctional Center.
Even though it might appear the land transfer is stalled, Tergin said, it is normal for conveyances to take a while to finalize.
"It's a completely normal process of land conveyance, so the state is doing what it normally does for land conveyance, and they're talking to the city and working through those details," she said. "Even though people might not visibly see things happening yet, I can tell you that things are moving forward."
Tergin said the city wants to move quickly but also be thoughtful and reasonable when creating a timeline for the 32-acre redevelopment.
The overall goal is to encourage tourism and economic growth at the old prison site, she said.
"The goal is for public, private partnership to bring growth and redevelopment to the site where it would become an asset and attraction, which would in turn create economic growth in Jefferson City," Tergin said. "It would also build upon where we are as an asset for tourism and attraction to the entire state."