Project to be completed by mid-2019

Construction of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau's (HCVB) new building is expected to begin in November.

The almost $1.5 million facility will be constructed on city-owned property next to the aquatic center, near the intersection of Grand Avenue and Pleasant Street. Gail Bryant, director of the HCVB, anticipates the project will be finished by late summer 2019, during Hannibal's Bicentennial celebration.

"This is an exciting time," she said.

Revenue bonds must be completed before the project's contractor, Bleigh Construction, can issue a leasehold. The issuance of as much as $7.2 million in bonds was given first reading by the Hannibal City Council at its Oct. 16 meeting. The bonds will come up for a second and final reading before the council at its Tuesday, Nov. 6, meeting.

The actual bond closing is scheduled for Nov. 14., if the issuance of bonds receives final approval as expected.

While $1,475,500 is the construction bid, additional bonds will be sold to help pay for the riverfront project.

Bonds will not be used to cover the entire cost of the new facility. The HCVB will take $350,000 from its reserve account for the initial down payment. Additional revenue will be generated and applied to the project when the HCVB's current building on North Bird Street is sold.

"There are no plans for a lodging tax increase," Bryant said during an appearance before the city council in September.

The aquatic center's west parking lot will be expanded as part of the project. A driveway will also be created to the lower level entrance of the new tourism building. Bryant said that to help hold down the cost of that work it will be performed by city personnel.

Selection of the site next to the aquatic center followed an extensive two-year search of buildings and lots that are available in the downtown area and along Mark Twain Avenue.

The chosen property provides visibility from the nearby interstate.

"It can serve as a marker to the entrance of Hannibal's historic downtown," Bryant said.

While the HCVB has been at its 505 North Bird St. location for decades, the site's shortcomings have become harder and harder to ignore. Bryant said it has very limited parking, only one public restroom, wiring issues, leaking fountains and has been hit three times in recent years by vehicles.

"The Hannibal convention and visitors bureau has demonstrated the need for a new visitors bureau. It's due to a long list of insufficiencies at our current location," she said.

danny.henley@courierpost.com