Mayor Perrin responds to letter about proposed convention center

Mayor Perrin responds to letter about proposed convention center

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin has responded to a letter from the Strong-Turner Alumni Chapter of A-State about a proposed convention center on the campus of Arkansas State University.

According to Talk Business, the letter from on-campus liaison Peggy Wright said the group believes the area could support the two convention center projects that are under consideration for the City of Jonesboro.

Officials with both O'Reilly Hospitality Management and Keller Enterprises announced plans earlier this year to build convention centers in Jonesboro.

The proposal from O'Reilly Hospitality Management would develop an Embassy Suites hotel with approximately 200 rooms, a conference center and a Houlihan's restaurant at the former A-State track complex just off of Highway 49.

The project from Keller Enterprises would include a 35,000 to 40,000 square foot convention center in addition to the 150-room hotel at the site of the former Arkansas Services Center just off Highway 63.

The Alumni group asked Perrin and the Jonesboro City Council to do three things in their letter:

"With further elaboration to follow in subsequent paragraphs, the three S-TAC requests are as follows – 1] that you as our Mayor and the city council immediately pass a resolution of endorsement and support for the Arkansas State University-Jonesboro and O'Reilly Hospitality Management project proposal; 2] that the City of Jonesboro collaborate with Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, to organize a North Jonesboro Anchor Institution Compact to mobilize state, federal, corporate and foundation funds and related resources in support of the A-State/OHM project within the organizational context of the NJNI; and 3] that you as Mayor and the city council use your good offices, influence and authority to have the Jonesboro Advertising & Promotion Commission begin immediate deliberations with A-State/OHM regarding this on-campus project as being proposed."

Wright went on to say the project is not only significant for the future growth of North Jonesboro but also a "cleansing experience for those of us who can recall the 1970s and the destitute living conditions confronting African Americans and low-income families in North Jonesboro and along Mathews Avenue and its side streets near downtown."

Perrin responded to Wright in a letter written Dec. 31.

He began by pointing out that his administration has strongly supported the North Jonesboro Neighborhood Initiative and will continue to do so.

He also stated that the initiative was formed with a mission to engage residents of the district in their community, not specifically aimed at economic development.

Perrin wrote the following in response to the group's three requests outlined in the letter:

"1. I cannot speak for the City Council as to whether it would be willing to endorse and support the ASU-O'Reilly proposal in the form of a resolution. The mayor would vote on such as issue only in the event of a tie. While I could propose such a resolution, I can think of no instance in my time on the council or as mayor where we endorsed one business over another. As to whether Jonesboro is large enough, and its economy is strong enough, to support two hotel-convention centers, I can't really say. I do know that providing economic incentives to both would be difficult for any city government of our size. More on that later.

Perrin went on to say that the same day that representatives with Mr. O'Reilly and A-State were meeting with him to ask for additional funding from the city, he found out Mr. Keller had the financing he needed.

"I didn't choose one project over another; the free market did in that Mr. Keller was the first to obtain a signed land contract," the letter stated.

He closed the letter by saying that deciding which proposal has a better chance of succeeding financially, or whether both could, is not something the city government can or should do.

He also thanked Wright for her interest and for the work she has done for the residents of North Jonesboro.

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