Future of two St. Joseph Street houses still unclear

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | 6:48 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — It could come down to: Move it or lose it.

After public outcry halted demolition of the house at 308 St. Joseph St. it could end up being moved or salvaged for another historical home. Boone County Family Resources intends to use the site to build more housing for its clients. 

The agency now wants to make the house available if someone wants to move it, said Robyn Kaufman, the interim executive director. She said several people have already shown interest in the house, believed to date back to the 1890s.

It is one of three homes the agency bought last year on St. Joseph Street to expand its facilities. They are within walking distance of the agency's headquarters at 1209 E. Walnut St. and close to public transportation for clients. 

One of them  — at 400 St. Joseph St. — has already been demolished. The houses at 302 and 308 St. Joseph St. are still awaiting a decision about their future.

“All along, our intent has been to use that property for residential purposes,” Kaufman said. 

The Historic Preservation Commission is fighting for the house at 308 St. Joseph St., Brent Gardner said. The commission will send a letter to Boone County Family Resources, asking that the agency:

  • Have a plan for the land before demolition.
  • Have a lot ready for moving the house. 
  • Allow an interested neighbor to be involved in the building decision.

If the agency decides to demolish the house, Gardner said salvaging pieces of the structure would be the most sustainable alternative.

Clyde Ruffin, president of the J.W. 'Blind' Boone Heritage Foundation, has expressed interest in using parts of the house in the renovation of the Blind Boone Home. He was intrigued by the front door and wood molding from the interior, Kaufman said.

Barbara Hoppe, Sixth Ward City Council representative, has also been keeping tabs on the house. She said she is interested in historic preservation and is familiar with the neighborhood.

Hoppe has been looking into the possibility of someone buying land the city has acquired over the years as a site for the house. She said she was recently contacted by a couple that seems interested in moving it.

“This is an opportunity for preserving a historic house for moderate- to low-income housing,” Hoppe said.

Adam Saunders lives on St. Joseph Street and said he sees its value for someone interested in a home with historical features.

At the same time, he said he's worried about what Boone County Family Resources will build on the lot. His main concern is upholding the characteristics and style of the neighborhood, though Saunders said the agency has voiced its intention to respect the height, setbacks and style of the neighborhood. 

He said he was pleased Kaufman was trying to work with the neighborhood.

The public is showing less interest in the house at 302 St. Joseph St., which doesn't seem to have any notable historical qualities, Kaufman said.

The houses will be discussed again at Boone County Family Resources board meeting on Sept. 5.

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Mike Martin August 8, 2012 | 10:14 p.m.

Please BCFR leadership: stop trying to redefine and rework your mission whenever the public outcry so demands!

“All along, our intent has been to use that property for residential purposes,” Kaufman said.

Residences for whom: people with disabilities -- or Odle overflow?

To say something like this, without a verifiable written plan as a tax-funded, public agency, simply isn't fair.

There's been no plan for that land over the 15 years it's been being amassed.

It is simply disingenuous to start chattering now about the sudden need for BCFR resident housing, a move that goes against the grain of the agency's longstanding mission: that BCFR clients remain in their homes, with their families.

No more group homes. No more segregated living. No more separation from the community, on artificial terms.

But you wouldn't know that, dear reader, because the agency pulled down their Mission Statement shortly after their leaders were roundly criticized for violating it.

Go ahead -- click the link (maybe they'll put the original back up -- I kept it -- hope they do):

Meanwhile, I like Robyn Kaufman. She seems like a genuine sort with a good heart. She just needs to be out from under the thumbs of the Bully Boys (and a coupla gals) that run this agency.

The Director announced his retirement way back in March. Why is his position not filled yet? Why is his name still on the letterhead?

Ms. Kaufman, meanwhile, is not out from under their thumbs until the "interim" title goes away and the Director and the core group of board members, including the life-time appointed BCFR Board Chair, finally step away.

Please -- get some leaders in there who are committed to the mission. The leadership used to be brilliant, the leader-in-chief eloquent to the point of tears.

But the leadership has stayed too long and let the brilliant luster fade, just like so many other of these lifetime appointments here in Boone, where innovation and progress get strangled by sagging whims, prior commitments, and beholdens that throttle core values.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin August 8, 2012 | 10:22 p.m.

This remnant from the Mission Statement cited above is a good indication of the agency's "in home" focus:

"A common misconception is that most persons with disabilities will eventually live in group homes or institutions. In fact, the opposite is true. The vast majority of persons with disabilities live in the community in their own homes or in the homes of their families."

(Report Comment)

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