Two historic buildings up for renovation

Tuesday, November 2, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:01 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

More than $2 million will be spent to renovate two city buildings to make them compliant with fire and building codes.

The Columbia City Council unanimously approved a $2.3 million renovation plan on Monday for the Howard and Gentry buildings downtown. They also asked the architects to work on detailed specifications for the project.

Monday’s decision is the latest step in the city’s Master Downtown Office Space plan. City Manager Ray Beck said he expects to present a similar proposal for the expansion of the Daniel Boone Building to the City Council by January.

The construction project will reconfigure and improve office space layouts inside the Howard Building at 600 E. Broadway and Gentry Building at 1 S. Seventh St. The money will also pay for renovation to some outside features.

The City Council’s action comes after the Columbia/Boone County Health Department moved out of the Howard Building earlier this year. Beck said that because of that relocation, it’s now easier to renovate the building. The building still houses the Municipal Court and City Prosecutor’s offices.

Beck added that the city wants to have the Gentry Building, home to the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, renovated before it marks its 100th anniversary in 2006.

To comply with fire and American Disability Act codes, other improvements include:

  • Installing an elevator in the Gentry Building to make the downstairs accessible.
  • Replacing existing mechanical systems in both buildings.
  • Installing a sprinkler system in the Gentry Building and a fire alarm system in the Howard Building.
  • Improving restrooms in both buildings and making them accessible to those in wheelchairs.

Also, the porch on the north side of the Howard Building will receive some landscaping and improved seating.

Architect Lou Chiodini of St. Louis-based Chiodini Associates said construction might also include beautifying the area along Broadway between the two buildings.

“We’d really like to bring these two buildings closer in proximity than they are now,” Chiodini said.

Mayor Darwin Hindman said he would like to look into moving the Gentry Building’s entrance back to Broadway, as it was when the building was first constructed.

Because of the history of the buildings, Chiodini said architects had to be especially careful of the buildings’ historical meaning.

The council asked the architects to work on detailed specifications for the project. After the architects create final drafts, the council will call for bids from contractors for the project.

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