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      Downtown JC conference center plan expanded

      The final proposal for a conference center in downtown Jefferson City boasts more meeting space but fewer hotel rooms than the original version.

      Hannibal-based Ehrhardt Hospitality Group proposes building a conference hotel on the site of an old state laboratory across the street from the Truman Building in downtown Jefferson City. Like Jefferson City's Farmer Holding Company, the facility in Ehrhardt's final proposal is larger than it was in the initial plan. This comes after a study in September recommended any conference center have at least 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including at least 15,000 square feet of ballroom space. Neither initial proposal had this much meeting space. In Ehrhardt's case, the proposed meeting area has grown from 22,500 square feet to 40,000, including a 30,000 square-foot ballroom. The hotel has shrunk from 200 to 150 rooms, while the parking area has added 30 spaces, to 350 total. The company's final proposal shows projected total cost has fallen from more than $36.8 million to about $24.6 million. Ehrhardt representatives did not attend the Thursday night special city council meeting at which Farmer representatives presented their final proposal.

      Third Ward councilman Ken Hussey told KRCG 13 on Thursday that either developer will most likely ask for tax abatments or other perks from the city in order to help fund the project. He said the city has found this is almost unavoidable if it wants to build a conference center of the size it wants.

      "This is not just a $9 million public investment and a $27 million developer investment," he said.

      Ehrhardt Hospitality representatives were unavailable for comment for this story.