Jacksonville: Proposed center may advance in 2014

Published on Wednesday, 25 December 2013 22:32 - Written by By Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

A proposed Jacksonville convention center project could potentially advance in 2014, according to city officials.

City Manager Mo Raissi said the project has not been at the forefront, but could be a city council agenda item as early as next month.

“It’s not a dead in the water deal. We just haven’t talked about it here of late,” Mayor Kenneth Melvin added.

IFor the project to progress, Melvin said, the city council would have to approve a master plan.

In April, city council members voted to receive a report from a committee designed to look into the feasibility of a convention center.

The five-member committee was formed last year and was handpicked by the council with each member choosing a representative.

Committee members studied the possibility of a multi-use facility that would attract tourism dollars, and committee members visited other convention centers in East Texas to see “what they had, and what we had and what we wanted to do,” Jeff Austin Jr., chairman of the committee, said at the time.

After talking with various people and getting photographs, he has said committee members came back with some basic questions. Those questions included “Will this project be good for Jacksonville?” “Will the facilities be attractive, user-friendly and represent Jacksonville well?” and “Is this the time for such a project?” according to a letter from committee members.

Austin has said the committee perceived that the answers to those questions were positive and decided to recommend that the city build the convention center.

He has said they worked with Fitzpatrick Architects to come up with a plan, which not only includes the convention center but also a livestock expo center. The plan entails a civic hall and covered porch, among other things.

All facilities were proposed for the Nichols Green Park area.

Austin has said the expo center would come sometime in the future as the project expands. As for the first phase — the convention center — it is proposed to have under 22,000 square feet of heated and cooled space, along with verandas, he has said.

At one point, the estimated target price solely for the convention center was about $3 million, and Melvin said hotel/motel tax would be used to help fund it if it is built.