Joplin council hears plan for former library building

Debby Woodin, The Joplin Globe, Mo.
·3 min read

Feb. 23—A proposal to adapt the former library building on Main Street for joint programs that would be operated by the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, Missouri Southern State University and the city was outlined Monday night at a meeting of the City Council.

The Joplin Public Library occupied the building at 300 S. Main St. before moving to a newly constructed building at 1901 E. 20th St.

Toby Teeter, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, outlined several uses for the building, which would need a $10 million renovation for the purpose. He said sources of funding for those renovation costs have not yet been determined but that there could be some grant funds to pay initial operating costs for the programs that would be offered.

Dean Van Galen, MSSU president, said the university would establish a downtown center that would include reception and welcome space to provide information to students, potential students and the community about the programs offered at the center.

He said the proposal calls for the university's Small Business Development Center, now located in Plaster Center, to move downtown; the SBDC is a critical economic development driver to the region and its impact could be increased with a downtown location where other business services could be provided.

One of the programs the university would offer would be the Center for Advanced Professional Studies, a dual-credit program for high school students that would provide internships for them to work with professionals in fields such as engineering, health sciences, business, media and marketing, criminal justice, and education.

Melinda Moss, superintendent of the Joplin School District, said connecting students to professionals is a missing piece in current high school offerings. The dual credit program is instrumental in encouraging students to continue their education.

"I have seen the power of our students having a few of college hours toward a degree. ... It really expands their vision for their future. It is a tremendous opportunity for high school students and one we are ready to go with and embrace it," Moss said.

Teeter explained a number of other uses and programs for the building's conceptual plan in addition to launching careers for high school students as Van Galen and Moss described.

It could serve as a launch pad for several programs including a culinary startup program that would provide spaces to start a restaurant, teach digital technologies to displaced workers, and increase access and diversity to attract minorities, women and low-income entrants to digital occupations and entrepreneurship.

There also would be an economic development hub for an economic development team that would involve the city, the MOKAN Partnership, the Downtown Joplin Alliance and others.

Teeter said there will have to be more done on how to pay for the renovation costs to the building. Talks on that will continue between the chamber, the university and the city, he said. Those entities and others would share the operational costs, he said. That information will be reported back to the council.

In other business, the council agreed to ask its financial oversight committee, a group of residents, to evaluate the financial projections made in a study that recommended a $25 million remodeling of Memorial Hall for a variety of uses. The committee is to look at the revenue projections and costs made to operate a renovated hall.

The council also heard a presentation on the parks master plan. That plan will be used to develop a proposal for an election later this year in which voters will be asked to renew the city's quarter-cent parks and stormwater sales tax.