Supporters of a proposal to build a museum complex on the site of a Joplin hospital that was destroyed in the May 2011 tornado said they were surprised to learn that any development will require a $1 million payment to build and maintain an adjacent garden and walking trail.
The city of Joplin disclosed Wednesday that its agreement with the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. includes the $1 million promissory note on less than an acre of land where St. John's Regional Medical Center stood before it was demolished by the tornado, The Joplin Globe reported. The land is owned by Mercy Hospital.
The existence of the agreement surprised proponents of the museum plan, who said no one mentioned it when they pitched their idea to city officials in August.
"We had no idea about this stipulation," said Allen Shirley, president of the Joplin Historic Society, which owns many of the Joplin Museum Complex collections. "We thought that Mercy gave the land to the city. The city said it did not want to be responsible for it and turned it over to the JRC."
Shirley said the $1 million obligation would make it more difficult to construct the museum at the site.
Gary Duncan, chairman of the JRC, said if someone had a project to build on the land, the JRC would get the $1 million and pay it Mercy Hospital.
The $1 million note allowed the land to be included in the 50 acres the JRC needed to control to apply for the state's Distressed Land Assemblage Tax Credit Program, Duncan said. The state Department of Economic Development was aware of the arrangement when it issued a provisional approval of the corporation's tax credit application on Aug. 28, he said. The JRC will earn about $5 million on the sale of the tax credits.
Angie Saparito, spokeswoman for Mercy Hospital, said the hospital would use the $1 million for a community gathering place the hospital is planning to build on land where the St. John's chapel stood before the tornado.
"Anything we get for that land will fund the upkeep of a chapel, a walking trail and St. John's Mercy Garden," she said.
Mercy had offered to give the land to the city to build a tornado memorial or museum or other suitable structure but the city council turned down the offer, saying the public should decide how to use the land.
If the city council or Mercy determined that a proposed use for the site was unacceptable, the land will be given back to Mercy and the promissory note canceled.