COLUMBIA — The 80-year-old Koonse Glass Co. building is one step closer to becoming a revitalized market and office space in the North Village Arts District.
The city's Board of Adjustment on Tuesday granted John Ott, owner of the building at Park Avenue and Tenth Street, a variance that will allow him to construct an ADA-accessible entrance to the building without damaging the historic structure. The board voted 4-0 Tuesday night to grant a variance to city rules for front-yard setbacks so Ott can build the entryways.
Ott wants to renovate the building, located just north of Cafe Berlin and east of rental homes , to be a new space for the Root Cellar market or offices. Ott said he wants to retain as much of the building's original character as possible by repurposing the old central-city building instead of redeveloping the lot.
The city's Community Development Department had rejected Ott’s building permit application to construct new entryways earlier this year because the door plans encroach into required open yard space. Skip Walther, who represented Ott at the Tuesday meeting, asked the board to waive the requirement because the building was constructed at a time when the city had no setback rules.
Walther provided the board with renderings showing how the completed renovations might look. It would appear much the same but with arched entrances in place of existing garage doors along Park Avenue. Once renovated, the building should remain a good fit for the North Village Arts District, Walther said.
"We very much think this is part of downtown," Walther said. "We think (the variance) is a very minor deviation from the ordinance and will allow us to use it for Root Cellar purposes (or) office purposes."
Cliff Jarvis spoke to the board in favor of the project as a representative of Columbia College, which owns property just north of the building. College administrators support Ott's plans, saying it will attract more business to the area.
"It is important to us at Columbia College to draw more people to the area," Jarvis said. "It makes the area safer."
The North Central neighborhood is one of the most mixed-use areas in Columbia, and neighbors welcome the addition of a shop at the corner, said Pat Fowler, who is a member of the city's Historic Preservation Commission and lives in the neighborhood. The city should do its best to save and repurpose old buildings, which requires some flexibility with existing rules and ordinances, she said.
Board member Rex Campbell echoed Fowler's support of the project and said repurposing the lot could make the building more useful for the neighbors.
"We should let them do what they're trying to do to make efficient use of (the building)," Campbell said just before the vote.
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