Looking forward into 2020, Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin has recovery on her mind.
On May 22, 2019, an EF-3 tornado tore a path through the city, damaging residences and businesses as it went. The city and its residents are still recovering.
"Rebuilding Jefferson City is a top priority for the coming year," Tergin said. "I think that's something that we would all expect and we can all have a part in continuing to support businesses who have been affected, and encouraging those that have faced challenges."
Looking back on the last seven months of this year, Tergin said she was proud of how the city came together to recover from the storm, from that day forward.
"It's one of those things that you never want to go through, but it's also a time that we've seen people come together and help each other out and be strong more than I've ever seen or imagined," Tergin said.
Despite all the challenges 2019 brought, among them the tornado but also heavy spring flooding, Tergin is confident Jefferson City will emerge stronger than before.
"We can rebuild, and we will rebuild. What really matters are people — our friends and our family," Tergin said. "We learned first-hand what's really important."
Recovery is a long-term process, Tergin said, and not one that will likely be complete even in 2020, but the city is on its way.
"We know that we're faced with that, but we're prepared and we're ready to face that," Tergin said.
Her encouragement to the community is to continue supporting each other and those affected, particularly businesses who may not have had the chance to rebuild yet.
"2019 was the year of being strong, and in 2020 we're going to continue to grow stronger through this recovery process," Tergin said.
Housing following the tornado, and in general addressing Jefferson City's housing availability, are also on the mayor's mind.
Next year, River City Habitat for Humanity will hold a "Road to Recovery Blitz Build" and build four additional homes in Jefferson City on top of the four to five they typically build in one year, which Tergin said is one further step for recovery.
Tergin is also looking forward to several ongoing projects the city is part of, some of which will likely see developments in 2020.
Missouri State Penitentiary
Upcoming for the city is the next step in a years-long process to redevelop 32 acres of the historic Missouri State Penitentiary.
After the land was conveyed from the state to the city in 2018, the city has been working to eventually redevelop the land. In December, two redevelopment proposals were presented to the public.
City officials have previously said they expect to select a developer by spring 2020. The city must select a developer within two years of the state conveying the land to the city, according to an agreement between the city and state. The city must also start construction within four years, the agreement adds.
"Selecting a developer this year is very exciting," Tergin said. "It's something we've worked toward for many years and took a lot of partnerships coming together to make it happen. Choosing the future of the MSP site is in our hands for 2020."
Tergin also hopes to see the Inside the Walls concert return to the MSP site in 2020. The 2019 concert was moved to the Jefferson City Jaycees Fairgrounds after MSP received significant damage during the tornado.
Coming in 2020, MSP will also play host for the first time to the Pedaler's Jamboree in May 2020, an annual bike ride that begins in Columbia and usually would end in Boonville, but will instead end at the historic prison.
Bike riders will end their ride at the site, and a concert will be held before an overnight camp on the grounds.
"I'm excited about that coming here, to Jefferson City, for the first time, and it includes an opportunity to go camping at the prison," Tergin said.
Nearby, another of Tergin's 2020 focus points is the redevelopment of the historical homes on East Capitol Avenue.
The Jefferson City Housing Authority is currently accepting applications for seven properties along East Capitol Avenue and Jackson Street — 500, 501, 507, 511 and 513 E. Capitol Ave. and 101 Jackson St. — from interested redevelopers until Jan. 7.
East Capitol Avenue, including some of the available homes, were also hit by the tornado.
"We're looking forward to continuing to revitalize Capitol Avenue, despite the fact that the tornado took a direct hit," Tergin said. "There are still opportunities for these properties, so that gives us hope for Capitol Avenue."
Looking at the damaged Capitol Avenue now, Tergin said she can imagine how the original builders felt.
"We have an opportunity to shape Capitol Avenue for the next hundred years," Tergin said. "It's not an opportunity we really wanted or asked for, but I feel confident that moving forward Capitol Avenue will come back."
Clear vision for the future
Tergin played on the comparison of perfect 20/20 vision and the upcoming year, saying Jefferson City's vision for the future is clear.
"It really is a year of vision being realized — a vision of things we've talked about for decades in our community that are, right now, in our hands," Tergin said. "They're literally within our sight."
Along with MSP redevelopment and possible development along Capitol Avenue, the city is working on the Bicentennial Bridge project and awaiting the completion of improvements to the Missouri State Capitol.
The coming year will also bring the Cole County bicentennial, as well as continued planning for the state bicentennial in 2021.
Personally, Tergin encourages residents to make sure they are counted in the 2020 census in April, to support local businesses and restaurants, and keep recovery in mind.
"We will come back, and I think that's going to be our story for 2020."