On May 22nd, 2011 an EF-5 tornado devastated the City of Joplin traveling approximately 13 miles through the City, taking 161 lives, and causing an estimated $2.8 billion in destruction. This year we will be observing the 10-year anniversary of the Joplin Tornado and reflecting on the efforts contributed by many to recover and rebuild Joplin stronger than ever.
In response to the disaster, Joplin was awarded $158 million in US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding. Working alongside City leaders and our proud teaming partner, Guidehouse, Viriya Consulting has been fortunate to have played an integral part of these recovery efforts as we have assisted in the administration of the CDBG-DR grant over the past 4-years. It has been a rewarding experience to be part of rebuilding this amazing community that many of our staff still reside in. Through strategic planning the City, coupled with the efforts from the local Citizen Action Recovery Team (CART), proposed a capital plan with a variety of infrastructure, public facility, housing, and economic development recovery projects based on impact assessments and eligible through the HUD CDBG-DR program:
Early Childhood Center
This project consisted of the design and construction of an approximately 38,000ft² facility to serve as an Early Childhood Center. The Early Childhood Center opened April 2nd, 2018 and, through current operations, is providing half-day educational services for children ages 3 to 5. The Early Childhood Center also identifies children with a suspected disability through a comprehensive evaluation protocol, individually designed, to determine if a child has a categorical disability as defined by the Missouri State Plan for Implementing the Individuals With Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA). Additionally, to help accommodate working parents, childcare services are also offered to children enrolled in the Early Childcare program.
Advanced Training & Technology Center
This project consisted of the purchase and renovation of an approximately 51,000 ft² building to serve as a training facility devoted to providing services to develop and/or enhance the skill sets of the Joplin-area workforce. Programs offered by the Center include classes / programs provided by Crowder College including but not limited to Advanced Welding, Advanced Manufacturing, CAD Drafting, Computer Networking Services (CNS), and Culinary Arts. Additionally, the Center has designated incubator space for local start-up businesses / entrepreneurs to take advantage of affordable, flexible space along with a variety of office and professional services.
The Joplin Homebuyer Assistance Program (JHAP) was developed and implemented to encourage homebuyers to purchase homes within and aid in the City of Joplin’s goals to repopulate the disaster impacted areas. The project scope was to assist potential low-moderate income (80% area median income level) homebuyers with down-payment and closing cost assistance not to exceed $35,000. Through its lifespan, the project assisted nearly 600 homeowners who were buying homes within the disaster impacted recovery area.
With the closing of The Salvation Army’s food pantry, a direct result of the tornado that devastated the community, Crosslines became the only agency in the Joplin, Carl Junction, and Webb City area that distributes U.S. Government Food Commodities. Crosslines added 1,278 square feet to their Food Pantry in 2013, yet they were still in need of more operating space to keep up with the increased demand for their services since the tornado.This project included retrofitting a larger facility to meet Crosslines’ expanded client’s needs by upgrading / remodeling the new facility. The objective of the project is to assist the elderly, disabled, and low income individuals and families and to provide a “hands up” to those who have fallen on difficult financial circumstances. To deliver on this mission, Crosslines provides financial assistance with rental and utility obligations in crisis situations as well as food items, clothing & housewares as needed.
The Joplin Bungalows project was developed to fill the void of senior housing created as a result of the tornado within the Joplin area and address the Mayor’s challenge to combat veteran homelessness. The project scope included the construction of 20 affordable housing units that are provided to the Joplin area’s most at-risk demographics such as seniors living on a fixed income, homeless veterans, and disabled individuals. The development consists of 5 buildings made up of 4 units each. These buildings were constructed to create a neighborly environment that encourages socialization of the tenants occupying the units. Construction started in January 2019 with an and was completed in June 2020.
The city of Joplin allocated CDBG-DR funds to provide a new location to adequately serve the growing senior population within the City of Joplin. Damages to the former Joplin Senior Center as a result of the May 22, 2011 tornado led to the development of this project as part of the City of Joplin’s Capital Planning process and consisted of the design and construction of an approximately 14,000 ft facility to support expanded operations. The new facility will aid in providing an expanded kitchen to serve over 140 seniors daily, exercise classrooms to accommodate 40-50 seniors, as well as privacy rooms to provide free wellness checks and counseling. This project aims to provide a positive and nurturing place for all Joplin area seniors to connect, feel valued and respected.
The city of Joplin identified the need to provide more pedestrian access to a variety of locations via safe and alternative modes of transportation within the Joplin area following the May 2011 Tornado. The Trails project consists of the development of a network of shared-use paths to provide City-wide connectivity. The project was separated into three phases: Phase I, Murphy Trail was designed internally by the City of Joplin and completed in summer 2014, Phase II, the Mohaska Trail, and Phase III, St. Johns Blvd, which was completed May 2020. The Murphy Trail consists of approximately 10,000 feet of shared-use path on Murphy Blvd. providing connectivity between 4th – 20th Street. The Mohaska Trail constructed approximately 11,000 feet of shared-use path connecting from 26th and Main St. to 26th and McClelland Blvd. The St. Johns trail connects the Mohaska Trail from the intersection of 26th and McClelland Blvd. to 32nd Street. The St. Johns trail is funded in part by both MODOT’s Transportation Alternatives Program and City Parks and Recreation funds. Construction on Mohaska Trail was completed in May 2020.
As a result of the 2011 tornado, Mercy hospital was completely destroyed. The site where Mercy Public Park was developed was donated to the City of Joplin to be used for on-going recovery efforts. With the funding for recovery, the City created a 17 acre passive, recreational park including a walking trail, lake, onsite stormwater management system, and support features such as benches, lighting, restrooms, and shelters. This project aims to provide a positive and nurturing place for all Joplin residents to exercise, memorialize, and feel a positive connection to the surrounding community.
A portion of CDBG-DR funds were used to replace critical infrastructure facilities that were damaged as a result of the tornado. These projects provided sidewalk, storm, street, and curb and gutter infrastructure replacement that have not only repaired damage caused by the tornado, but enhanced the quality of Joplin’s transportation.
It has been an amazing experience to contribute to the Joplin recovery and a pleasure to work with City leaders. We hope to maintain our presence in the community by assisting the City and Guidehouse in their continued efforts to build a stronger, more resilient Joplin in preparation of any future disasters that may strike.