Lawmakers approve transfer of historic Missouri prison site

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JEFFERSON CITY- The Missouri House approved a measure that would allow the governor to transfer land near the old Missouri State Penitentiary to Jefferson City. 

In a Monday vote, the House approved the measure in 127-17, allowing the transfer, sale or conveyance of nearly 32 acres of old prison grounds near the Capitol. It previously passed the Senate and now heads to the governor. 

"The property's been almost 20 years in the making right now," Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Bernskoetter (R-St. Louis) said.

He said the penitentiary opened in 1836 and was the oldest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi River when it shut down in 2004. 

"Once the governor signs it, we can put the road in there. Then they are interested in putting in a hotel and convention center and apartments, housing, shopping, dining, all of these things," Bernskoetter said. 

Bernskoetter said the implementation will bring noticeable benefits. 

"We've being paying to maintain it, but now we can develop it, so it will bring economic development to the city," he said. 

Bernskoetter said some of the oldest buildings of the prison are used for historical tours now, and the new change will not affect that part. 

"That part is growing massively, but now we want to expand on that and do some development around that property," he said.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said the decision is important for the city. 

"If we are able to build on that site and really expand what the history penitentiary has to offer, it's good for those of us who live here, brings economic development and growth and tourism," she said. "And also we bring jobs once we get some more development out there."

Tergin said she is excited to see the change after governor signs it. 

"We know that this is the site that is really worth investing in, and we appreciate the cooperation of the partnership with the city and the state and the county working together on this," she said.