Heibel-March Building to open after 16 years of vacancy

Thursday, March 6, 2014 | 12:00 p.m. CST; updated 9:47 a.m. CST, Friday, March 7, 2014
The Heibel-March Building, which was recently renovated after being left vacant for nearly 16 years, will open on March 17 as office space for Grove Construction. Since its construction in 1910, the building has served as a drugstore, grocery store and auto parts store.

COLUMBIA — Even though the past 15 years were its most uncertain — it was almost demolished twice — the Heibel-March Building has a new lease on life.

The building dates to 1910 and housed the Heibel Drug Store, the Black Grocery Store and Rangeline Auto Parts.

Heibel-March Building has long history

Within the past 14 years, the Heibel-March Building's future was the most uncertain it had ever been, even though the building had been standing for more than 100 years.

Central Missouri Counties Human Development Corp. bought the building from the city for $10 in 2000 to use as a community center. That project was abandoned in 2008 after unsuccessful efforts to raise the $200,000 to $250,000 in renovation costs, and the city began to look for other proposals to preserve the building.

First Chance for Children submitted a proposal to renovate the building in 2009, but less than eight months after the city approved the proposal, the organization dropped the project.

In 2010, Legacy Construction submitted a proposal to use the Heibel-March Building as an office and asked to modify the building's exterior to add an overhead door. Legacy Construction's founder died the next year, halting the proposal.

The city decided to extend the deadline to submit proposals after it learned that Grove Construction and Recovery Through Discovery were interested. The alternative was demolition.

Grove Construction started renovations at the end of October. The firm will use the building for its office.

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The city purchased the building in 1998 to demolish it in order to expand the adjacent Field Park. At the urging of the North Central Columbia Neighborhood Association, the city decided to preserve the building for a community center. That effort, along with two others, failed to materialize.

The building, at the northeast corner of Rangeline Street and Wilkes Boulevard, had been empty for at least 15 years when Grove Construction entered an agreement with the city in 2013 for conveyance of the property. The agreement was reached on the conditions that the exterior's architecture and historical characteristics would be preserved; the building would house an office or retail business; and the company would pay the city $10 a year for 90 years to lease the land. Grove Construction will use the building for its office.

Tony Grove, co-owner of Grove Construction, said the interior was almost destroyed. There was a tree growing inside, and windows were covered with plywood.

Grove was able to use the original entrance and most of the exterior bricks, including a colorful mural titled "The Corner" of people gathering around the Heibel-March Building.

"We didn't want to change in any way the look or feel of the exterior," Grove said. "Structurally, it was intact. We really didn't want to alter it."

Donald Neer, who owned the Heibel-March Building in the 1970s, said he was impressed with the renovations. He could tell a lot of time and effort had gone into the new windows and roof.

The company pulled out all of the remaining windows and replaced them with new glass and aluminum frames.

Neer, 94, owned Rangeline Auto Parts, but he remembers the role the Heibel Drug Store played in the community. The neighborhood went to the Heibel-March Building for milkshakes, soda and medicine, he said.

Grove Construction plans to open on March 17, and the Heibel-March Building will once again be occupied. 

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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