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Jefferson City receives $1.5M to redevelop state penitentiary


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.  — The capital city is receiving $1.5 million in federal funds to support the commercial redevelopment of the historic Missouri State Penitentiary. 

The federal grant will be matched with $1.6 million in local funds and is expected to generate more than $28 million in private investments while creating more than 60 jobs. The funds came from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which identified the area as an “opportunity zone” under the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The act distributes funds to develop economically-stressed communities impacted by natural disasters. 

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the grant was a welcome opportunity. 

“This investment is going to be extremely valuable in getting this project accomplished,” Tergin told The Missouri Times. “We’re so glad that the EDA sees the value in the redevelopment of that very historic site and using it to drive economic growth and new jobs. It’s wonderful to see this grant will help us meet that goal of redevelopment — we’re extremely grateful for this assistance.”

The penitentiary housed prisoners from 1836 to 2004 and held historical tours within its walls after its retirement. The site was damaged during the 2019 tornado that rocked mid-Missouri, as well as flooding the same year. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the project was a showcase of what the government hoped to do with these grants.

“The Trump administration is committed to helping American communities recover from, and build back stronger, following natural disasters,” Ross said in a statement. “This project will address the regional need for economic development opportunities in the aftermath of the devastating floods and tornadoes of 2019.”

Before the inauguration of President Joe Biden Wednesday morning, the Trump administration identified 161 opportunity zones across the country, according to the department. These zones are the main investment priority of funds appropriated under the act. 

The EDA released $1.7 million to Montgomery City last month. The funds were earmarked to bolster the area’s broadband infrastructure as part of the same program.