JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Work has begun on a new convention center in Jonesboro.
The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission said Friday that O'Reilly Hospitality Management has "begun work sufficient to meet the deadline for funding" by the A&P.
The Springfield, MO, developer plans to build an Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center on the Arkansas State University campus.
A&P Chairman Jerry Morgan said Tim O'Reilly had secured financing for the project, adding that fencing and site work were expected to begin Friday.
"This is welcome news for our city and our university, as well as Mr. O'Reilly," Mayor Harold Perrin was quoted as saying in a news release from the city.
Despite the announcement, Perrin added: "I remain cautious because most people know we've been trying to get a convention center built in Jonesboro for more than a decade. But this is a very positive sign."
A&P has committed up to $2.5 million in tax rebates over the first 10 years of the convention center's operation.
The commission had given O'Reilly a 90-day window to begin work as part of the agreement. That window would have closed Saturday, Feb. 17.
"He [O'Reilly] has worked hard to meet this deadline and has also expressed his appreciation to the A&P Commission and the City of Jonesboro for being patient in this process," Morgan stated in a letter Friday to the A&P Commissioners.
The $59 million project will feature a 203-room hotel with a 40,000-square-foot convention center, and a Houlihan's restaurant. Construction is expected to take 19 months. O'Reilly has said it hopes to have the convention center open and operational by 2019.