City requests new ideas for an old building

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 | 4:29 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Now anyone with a quarter of a million dollars and determination can step in to save a piece of Columbia's history.

Next week, the city will issue a request for proposals for the renovation of the Heibel-March building, an old drugstore and grocery tucked between Eugene Field Elementary and Columbia College.

Those interested in the building, which has been listed among  the city's most notable properties since 2005, must prepare themselves for a major project. The city's estimates for a full renovation begin at $250,000. There's no doubt the building needs extensive work. Its walls are crumbling and water-damaged, spiderwebs of cracks run across its windows and plywood covers the building's front door, which was shot in last September.

If someone is willing to undertake the project, there is an opportunity to rejuvenate a link to Columbia's past.

The 2,600-square-foot building, also known as “The Corner," has housed several businesses at Range Line Street and Wilkes Boulevard and is best-remembered as a neighborhood grocery store and gathering place. There is affection for the building among those dedicated to ensuring it has a bright future. With its one-story brick facade, the vacant storefront echoes a time when small, locally-owned businesses outnumbered chain stores and multinational corporations.

Any concrete plans for the space evaporated this past September, when financial difficulties ended Central Missouri Community Action's eight year effort to renovate the building for use as a community center. The neighborhood coalition is now returning ownership of the store to the city, which will issue a request for proposals from those who might have new ideas for the 94-year-old building.

On Nov. 3, the Columbia City Council approved a suggestion to solicit proposals for the property from the general public.

As in the contract with Central Missouri Community Action, the city is offering the building for sale but will negotiate a lease for the land on which it sits. The city will also have to review any restoration plans, specifically for any alterations to the building's exterior.

Historic Preservation Commission Chairman Brian Treece said it was important to preserve the spirit of the building.

"We'd like to see the exterior of the building preserved as close to the original as possible," he said. "An interior adaptive reuse that encourages modern function would be acceptable, but it's important to keep the historic exterior."

Treece said while the commission can only advise the city on how to handle historic buildings, the group would be happy to work with any interested applicants.

City purchasing agent Marilyn Starke said responses to the request for proposals are due in mid-December and a review committee will examine them. The process usually takes about two weeks.

Any proposal should include a description of the project and a proposed floor plan. If the city finds any of the submissions acceptable, the committee could award a contract sometime in January.

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Charles Dudley Jr November 12, 2008 | 5:08 p.m.

Why doesn't the city make it into a satellite youth center for troubled kids who live in that area or why doesn't the various church groups get together and do the same thing?

Everybody knows this city needs more crisis youth centers and there is the perfect opportunity IMHO.

If the editors of the Missourian want just forward this idea to City Council if they want to.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 13, 2008 | 8:01 a.m.

Why don't you forward it to the council instead of asking the Missourian to do so? All council members have email addresses, as I'm sure you know.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 13, 2008 | 8:09 a.m.

Too bad they often don't reply. I quit e-mailing them after I realized that it was a waste of my time.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 13, 2008 | 9:28 a.m.

There are only a few members of City Council who will actually answer you.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 13, 2008 | 9:45 a.m.

I never got an answer when I asked if the city issued a permit for the plywood wall by Shiloh.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 13, 2008 | 11:00 a.m.

A fair chunk of the council members have office hours on the weekend now, I would pin them there and ask any questions I thought necessary. Or you can always sign up to speak at the beginning of a council meeting, or sit through all of the business and address them at the end.

Maybe things have changed on the council, but the couple of times I have sent emails, I have received a response.

Ayn, if you want to find out about Shiloh's wall, city staff would probably be a better place to start, maybe Protective Inspections. A council member would probably have to do the same thing I presume.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 13, 2008 | 11:40 a.m.

John there are only a few with office public hours now. Skala,Sturtz and Hoppe last I was informed as actually active in this project of community inclusion.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 13, 2008 | 12:31 p.m.

Jerry Wade has them as well, so that's four of the seven. I have never heard of Hindman, Nauser, or Janku holding any to the best of my knowledge.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr November 13, 2008 | 1:08 p.m.

>>> I have never heard of Hindman, Nauser, or Janku holding any to the best of my knowledge. <<< No they do not and neither does Watkins.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz November 13, 2008 | 1:26 p.m.

I'm not surprised that Bill Watkins doesn't hold office hours on Saturday since he is not an elected representative. Anyone wanting to get hold of him can use his city manager hotline, which I presume to be the 874-6338 number listed on the city manager page on the city's website.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 13, 2008 | 1:31 p.m.

Or you could just go to Shiloh during happy hour, if you want to meet with the people who really run this town.

(Report Comment)

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