Historic Preservation Commission supports preservation of Niedermeyer building

Thursday, January 3, 2013 | 10:50 p.m. CST; updated 3:42 p.m. CST, Monday, January 14, 2013
Columbia Historic Preservation Commission member Debby Cook looks on during a commission meeting Thursday. The commission discussed the potential demolition of the Niedermeyer building, located at 920 E. Cherry Street.

COLUMBIA — The Historic Preservation Commission plans to attend Monday night's City Council meeting to support the preservation of Columbia's oldest building, the Niedermeyer apartment house.

At a meeting Thursday night, the commission opposed a demolition permit application filed by Contegra Construction on behalf of Collegiate Housing Partners, a St. Louis-based development firm, which is under contract to purchase the Niedermeyer building in March. 

The firm plans to construct student housing on the corner of Tenth and Cherry streets that would rise up to 15 stories high, making it the tallest building in Columbia.  

According to the city's guidelines for applying for a demolition permit, the application must be filed by either the owner or an agent on behalf of the owner, said Brent Gardner, a member of the Historic Preservation Commission. Contegra's current application doesn't comply with these rules, he said.

Additionally, the permit cannot be approved unless utilities are turned off, he said. The Niedermeyer building is currently serving as residential housing, therefore utilities will not be turned off until mid-July.

Built in 1837, the Niedermeyer building is Columbia's oldest standing building. It has served as an all-girls private school, a prominent hotel, a university classroom and, since 1921, residential housing, according to the State Historical Society of Missouri. 

On Monday, the council will vote on a motion to put a six-month suspension on all demolitions downtown. This way, the city could review C-2 zoning, which makes up most of downtown's commercial property including the Niedermeyer apartment house, Gardner said.

The demolition permit application has faced opposition not only from the Historic Preservation Commission but also from the community, chairman Brian Treece said. 

An online petition at had gathered nearly 1,500 signatures as of Thursday night in favor of the Niedermeyer building's preservation.

The demolition permit has not yet been approved by the city.

Also on Thursday night, the Hagan Scholarship Foundation made a presentation in order to gain the commission's support on buying, rezoning and demolishing two properties on the Stephens College campus. The Hagan Scholarship Foundation is planning to establish an academy on the property to support junior high and high school students from rural areas. 

Supervising editor is Simina Mistreanu.

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S.W. Moore January 4, 2013 | 1:25 a.m.

What a bunch of NIMBY bull. The out-of-place shack has gone unnoticed from about everyone for years. It's not distinctive. And it's not something that should be in the heart of a growing city. It looks like some old flophouse from a dying dust bowl town. That old decrepit building is what's out of place and out of scale for downtown Columbia. Columbia needs more tall buildings, always has. The godawful Paquin Tower was built nearly four decades ago and it's pathetic that more high rises haven't been built in downtown Columbia since. It's time for Columbia to get it up. New towers like the proposed one would actually give downtown more of an anchor instead of the giant parking garages, the horrific giant wall of the telephone company building and ugly Paquin and Manor House towers dominating the skyline. And more housing downtown is great for all. It creates a vibrant urban setting. More people living downtown makes it a 24/7 neighborhood and will bring more services (like a grocery store). This is the trend for the future. More housing in downtown areas also saves gas and curbs commutes (and for students it means no drunk driving down Providence or Rock Quarry to ugly apartment buildings after going to Harpos, etc.). Sprawl costs everyone money -- except for the developers who cheaply build those horrible strip malls and concrete slab buildings like those around the Nifong and Providence intersection. Sprawl costs taxpayers money by forcing the city to extend streets and utilities farther out. Sprawl also makes for longer workday commutes, too. Stop this nonsense. The NIMBYs in Columbia are holding it back (and it still seems rather obvious that one of them resorted to arson on that apartment complex on College Ave.). The owners of this land should be able to do what they want with it. A high-rise is the most appropriate use for the parcel.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 4, 2013 | 8:26 a.m.

SWMoore: I am in complete agreement.

I've watched this city grow since 1971. That means I've been around here for 40+ years, and in another 10-or-so y'all have to consider me a "native".

I think it's unfortunate that the downtown area has grown into a rather eclectic mix of architectural styles that has turned hideous and unsightly. I applaud the City of Boonville for making a one-or-the-other choice, in their case going with the "'ol man river" look.

We have the "we're mixed up" look.

When I stand near the corner of Garth and Ash/Worley and look east, I envision about 5-6 buildings making up the center city skyline, each standing 15 or even 20 stories tall. I see them constructed as "modern", not old. I DO NOT see the Tiger Hotel (what I call "ugh" architecture), nor do I see the huge parking garage or Paquin. I still see the older buildings dotted between these anchors, but in my vision their owners have finally decided to clean up not only their street-level look but their second story face-fronts as well (can you say "sandblaster and a good scrubbing?").

This is no longer Sleeptown, USA. We're a healthy, vibrant university/insurance/medical town smack in the middle of Missouri between KCMO and StL. We have no river or mountains or anything else to justify our existence except a bunch of universities and two N/S and E/W roads that happen to cross one another.

It's time to grow and change, and the Niedermeyer is a damned good place to start. Just make sure the architecture sets the tone for what should follow.

And tear down than damned Tiger Hotel. It's hideous.

(Report Comment)

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