COLUMBIA — More than 99 percent of the State Historical Society of Missouri's artwork, manuscripts and newspapers — dating back as far as 1808 — are tucked away in rows and rows of storage out of sight.
Although the historical holdings have been in the basement of Ellis Library for nearly a century, State Historical Society Executive Director Gary Kremer said they've never been able to control the environment inside the storage room or where artwork is displayed.
That is why the State Historical Society's proposed building — which would have quadrupled its space and allow for protective security and environmental controls — seemed like the perfect solution. But finding the perfect space for the proposed $40 to $60 million museum proved difficult to obtain.
The society tried to negotiate agreements to build the museum on the 68,742-square-foot block of land at the corner of Sixth and Elm streets. The Columbia City Council even considered whether to step in and use eminent domain on the properties if the talks didn't produce a deal between the society and Jack and Julie Rader, who own both lots where Bengals Bar and Grill and U.S. Cleaners sit.
But Monday morning, MU, the city and the State Historical Society switched gears and settled on a smaller parcel of land across Sixth Street.
MU acquiesced and accepted the 133-spot parking lot next to the Heinkel Building for the State Historical Society in exchange for the council to consider the University use a city-owned, 63-spot parking lot for Heinkel Building employees and visitors.
The council had already advertised a public hearing regarding the proposal to use eminent domain to gain control of the larger parcel of land, but City Manager Bill Watkins said Monday that the Historical Society couldn't wait much longer to see what would happen with that property.
"It became clear there was a serious time concern and the negotiations were going to take much longer and be much more expensive than the society anticipated," Watkins said. "It's my understanding that a site needed to be found today (Monday) in order for the building to be considered by the Missouri Legislature for money from the federal stimulus package."
The museum will have to concede to about 20,000 fewer square feet of land, but Kremer said the building will make up the square-footage difference in its height.
The new museum would follow the Sasaki plan, which directs Columbia's downtown development to create major focal points to draw people to The District.