JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission voted Wednesday to "move the city forward" and purchase land in hopes of building a convention center.
Members of the A&P Commission unanimously approved a proposal that has taken years to craft by city leaders.
Mayor Harold Perrin says the plan involves City Water and Light buying the 14-acre tract of land at Race Street and Fair Park Boulevard for $4 million. The A&P Commission would then use the majority of its proceeds from its three percent tax on hotel rooms to pay back CWL for the property.
The roundabout payment method may seem confusing, but the mayor did not want to use the city's general revenue to pay for the project.
"This is the next level that we need in Jonesboro," Perrin said about building the convention center. "With all the things that are going on now, the development now, it just makes sense. It's needed, very much needed.
"We will continue to push this very quickly," he added. "It's on the top priority of what I'm working on now."
The mayor and A&P commissioners say, with the land in the city's possession, a private developer could then come in, build and operate a convention center. Perrin says the city already has a developer from Illinois interested in building the 75,000 square foot project, but no deal has been finalized.
"It's just so exciting because we're looking forward. We're building our future. We're taking charge of what we want Jonesboro to be," said Cari White, executive vice president of the Jonesboro Chamber of Commerce.
"Now that we will own the land, we will be able to seek out the developers that we want to come in and build the properties, the hotels and the convention center."
City leaders project the convention center could attract 350,000 visitors and contribute over $1 million annually in sales tax revenues, and neighbors can see the potential too.
"We are a growing community and have lots of things going on for families and things," said Danielle Acree, a 15-year resident of Jonesboro, "so I think it'll be great."
Mayor Perrin says the CWL Board of Directors will vote on the proposal soon, and he expects a positive outcome.
He says, if everything goes according to plan, a developer could being moving dirt by the fall.