Hidden Spaces highlights redevelopment in Jeff City

A DIY approach?

Vince Owens with the United States Post Office talks about the possible uses for this room, the former federal court room located on the second floor of the High Street post office in Jefferson City. It is one of several locations on Sunday’s Hidden Spaces Tour.

Vince Owens with the United States Post Office talks about the possible uses for this room, the former federal court room located on the second floor of the High Street post office in Jefferson City. It is one of several locations on Sunday’s Hidden Spaces Tour. Photo by Julie Smith.

Quick Facts: Hidden Spaces, Secret Places Tour

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WHEN: 1-4 p.m. today

WHERE: Maps of all the featured locations can be picked up at the tents set up in front of the Jefferson City Area Convention and Visitors Bureau on East High Street, in front of the old prison warden’s house at the intersection of Lafayette Street and East Capitol Avenue, and near Central Dairy on Madison Street.

Attendees may go to the venues in any order they wish and may transport themselves or ride the trolley, which is free for those who have purchased tickets.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $5 and available today at the tents where maps are available. The ticket price includes admission to all venues and workshops, trolley rides and refreshments.

ADDED FEATURES: Redevelopment workshops will be held throughout the event at Capitol City Cinema and Capitol City Cork, both on East High Street. The workshops will focus on the city permitting process, available incentives, solar energy use in downtown, state historic tax credits and a Q&A with builders and developers.

Background and details

The 4th annual Hidden Spaces, Secret Places tour begins this afternoon, highlighting redevelopment efforts throughout Jefferson City.

But this year’s tour will feature more than just a peek at spaces that have been developed or soon will be developed. For the first time, the redevelopment workshops will be held during the same time as the tour, offering people a chance to learn more about what’s involved in redeveloping a property, from city permits to historic tax credits and builders’ perspectives.

Downtown Association President Stephanie Bell said many people have become familiar with the tours, which are a cooperative effort of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Jefferson City and the Old Town Redevelopment Company, but no one has ever reached out to assist those who may be considering doing some redevelopments of their own.

“We get a lot of people interested in redevelopment who come through the tour,” Bell said. “It’s always just been look at the buildings and then you’re on your own. So we almost feel sort of a responsibility to at least give people an opportunity to get any introductory information they might need if they’re serious about redevelopment in downtown.”

Mark Mehmert, community development manager at the chamber, and Bell both said redevelopment benefits everyone as it encourages continued growth and only adds to the local economy. Mehmert said redevelopment also tends to be infectious, with one project spurring another.

“If these areas are not performing well, they’re a drag on the local economy,” Mehmert said. “We know that these things are contagious.”

Mehmert said there’s clear demand for both retail and residential space not just downtown, but throughout the city’s Old Town area, but it’s difficult to navigate through the obstacles of how to redevelop a property. In the past few years, he said, the downtown especially has seen dramatic improvements that have only helped to spur further growth.

“It’s an asset that’s good for everybody,” Mehmert said.

But redevelopment is a difficult task that takes both a large amount of time and money to accomplish, he said.

“It is important that people understand redevelopment takes time,” Mehmert said.

Janice McMillan, planning and protective services director for the city, agreed saying it takes dedication, perseverance and a little creativity to get a project done. But McMillan drew a distinction between what she called redevelopment and reinvestment.

McMillan, who will be a panelist on the city permitting process during the redevelopment workshops today, said she always considered redevelopment to be when an existing building is torn down to make way for a new project. Reinvestment, she said, is when an existing building is still used in the new project.

McMillan said anyone thinking about a redevelopment, or reinvestment, project of their own has to deal with a lot of difficult questions and the city tries to encourage people to come in to her department and speak with staff to find out what they need to know, or do, before getting started.

She said these types of projects also benefit from the expertise of someone who knows how old buildings work.

McMillan’s department also has worked on handling a number of abandoned buildings throughout Jefferson City. The city’s list of abandoned properties contains 107 addresses as of April 30, according to the Historic City of Jefferson, which has published an ongoing series on abandoned buildings in its quarterly newsletters.

McMillan said her department has worked to keep many of the properties as “buttoned up” as they can, meaning the buildings would be boarded up and somewhat better preserved than if left open.

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McMillan said there are many concerned about the abandoned buildings in the area, because many are historic buildings that people would like to see preserved, which can make for emotional situations. She also said the fact that there’s a concentration of abandoned buildings owned by one property owner makes it more difficult.

Of the 107 addresses on the abandoned properties list, 19 are owned by one person — Barbara Buescher.

“This is not a new problem,” McMillan said.

But the difficulty with those properties is when owners either don’t want to spend, or don’t have, the money needed to reinvest in the properties and also don’t want to sell. But many others do have the inclination, McMillan said.

“I think there’s a terrific interest in it,” McMillan said. “It’s exciting.”

McMillan said she expects more reinvestment to happen as the city moves forward with large projects, such as the new Lafayette Street interchange, which is expected to be bid in July.

“It’s all kind of interrelated,” McMillan said. “We want to see reinvestment in downtown and Old Town.”

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