Joplin council authorizes tax break for Main Street project

Nov. 25—A tax break proposal for a $3.4 million project to construct a new building in a vacant section of the 900 block of Main Street will move forward.

The Moss-DeGraff building is to be constructed by Kate Moss-DeGraff and Brad DeGraff at the site of the former Rains Brothers Building at 906 S. Main St. The building was demolished after a fire destabilized it in 2012 and it collapsed. Three neighboring buildings at 910-912 and 914 S. Main St. also were weakened, and the city demolished them.

Troy Bolander, the city's planning and development director, said the DeGraffs intend to erect a mixed use building. Brad DeGraff recently told the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. there would be commercial space on the lower floor and apartments on the upper floor. The couple may build a second building next door later.

"This block has been challenging over the last few years," Bolander told the council. "This is actually is only the second investment that we have seen" in recent years. "On the other side of the street, Jeremy and Lori Haun actually went through this program as well to remodel the buildings on the east side" in the 900 block, Bolander said.

The last waiver of this kind was granted in 2018, "so it's been awhile since we really used this program. It's really reserved for the small-business owners downtown," Bolander said of the type of tax break sought by the DeGraffs.

"About 18 projects have been incentivized through this program" over a number of years, Bolander said. "That's really the reason we created this program is to help private investment in blighted areas or challenging areas to invest in."

The tax break can be issued under Chapter 353 of Missouri statutes.

Under the city program, tax relief can be granted for up to 25 years. In this case, there is to be 100% waiver for the first 10 years and 50% for the next 15 years.

"The abatement only applies to the improvement," Bolander said. "What is paid on the property right now in taxes will continue to be paid. It's not much — I believe we estimated the taxes are about $400 — but the DeGraffs are investing $3.4 million in the project that does not include the purchase price of the property. We believe the abatement will be about $545,000 over that 25-year period."

The JRC recommended approval. Bolander explained at the JRC meeting that "the JRC will briefly take ownership of the property and there will be a deed restriction recorded for the tax abatement," before being returned to DeGraff ownership.

City staff and the DeGraffs have met with the other taxing districts, including the school district, to obtain their authorization.

Brad DeGraff said the couple has been working on the project for three years and obtained approval of the Joplin Historic Preservation Commission on the design of their planned building.

"We could not be more pumped about cleaning up another corner of Main Street," DeGraff told the council. "We really think that hopefully it will be the last little bit to draw people into the area."

No one spoke in opposition at the JRC meeting or at the council meeting.

After the council hearing on the development plan for the building, the council voted on an ordinance to grant the tax break. It was approved with eight council members in favor and one, Phil Stinnett, absent.