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Jefferson City man envisions new life for old shoe factory

November 11, 2018 at 5:41 a.m. | Updated November 11, 2018 at 1:08 p.m.
Charles Jon Christiansen, right, stands just outside of what will be his Shelter Insurance office as he talks about his renovation plans with his father, Charlie Christiansen Jr. The younger Christiansen recently purchased the Jefferson City Distributors building and adjoining properties on West McCarty Street and has begun the remodeling process which is at least expected to go into the next year.

Sitting near the corner of West McCarty Street and Industrial Drive, the JCD Building looks like a creature which can't decide in what time period it wants to live.

Built in 1905 as a shoe factory, the building served its original purpose for 54 years until JCD Furniture bought the building in 1959. Parts of the building still look like an industrial workhorse, but others look like a modern furniture showroom.

"It's dark," said the building's new owner, Charles Jon Christiansen, of the second floor. "They've covered up all the windows."

For the past nine years, the building sat vacant as developers pondered ways to redevelop the property. Two weeks ago, Christiansen closed on the property. Now, he insists the building's best days are ahead of it.

Christiansen hopes to turn the 40,000-square-foot, four-level building into a home for a restaurant, a retailer and other office space.

The building sits in the heart of Jefferson City's industrial area of a century ago and right next to several of its most important modern arteries. Visitors access the building from West McCarty Street, but the building overlooks the Rex Witton Expressway and sits not far from Missouri Boulevard and Dunklin Street.

"We're right in the middle of all that," Christiansen said. "We want something with high visibility, and this is it."

In its dilapidated state, the building looks cold and uninviting.

Faded red brick on the exterior tells visitors of an industrial past, as do parts of the basement, first and third floors. JCD Furniture housed its main showroom on the second floor, which looks more modern. Sheetrock walls colored in red, tan and blue adorn walls on the second floor and cover each window.

Lime green carpet in part of the second floor looks like it came straight out of the 1970s, while modern tan carpet sits in other parts of the showroom.

Christiansen already knows most details about what will be built where. Two years ago, he began scouting the building as he thought about buying it from former owners Gene and Judy Schneider.

As Christensen researched the project over the past three years, he visited the building 80 times. Christensen hopes visitors feel the building's history, but he also wants to bring it into the 21st century.

"It's definitely a landmark of Jeff City," Christiansen said. "When you think of Jeff City, this is one of the buildings you see. It's been vacant for several years, but you can't miss it coming through town."

In a space used as a warehouse by JCD Furniture on the third floor, Christiansen plans to build 11 offices and two conference rooms. Just four offices remain to be leased, Christiansen said Monday.

As Christiansen approached the southeast corner of the building, he paused.

"This will be my office," Christiansen said.

Christiansen and his wife, Jessica, also own a local Shelter Insurance agency and West Main Pizza at 1931 W. Main St. The couple plans to move their insurance office from the same building their pizza shop sits in to the top floor of the renovated JCD building.

As he walked through the first floor, Christiansen envisioned a restaurant that will be built into one-half of the space by a tenant. A retail tenant will take up the other half of the first floor, Christiansen said.

"You'll walk into a glass vestibule here," Christiansen said as he outlined where a new front door will be. "There will be glass double-doors walking into this retail space, and a glass double-door walking into the restaurant."

Still, given the state of the building, an incredible amount of work needs to be done to make the property usable.

On the first floor alone, Christiansen listed a laundry list of items that needs to be done. A garage door will be replaced by the new front door and glass vestibule. Original wooden support posts that came from buildings built for the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis will be stripped of paint by being blasted with crushed walnut husks.

Bathrooms will be moved to make way for a kitchen. Brick walls need to stripped of paint and each floor needs to be fireproofed.

All of the gypsum board walls and all traces of the furniture store will be removed from the second and third floors. In the basement, a boiler and coal storage bin need to be removed, as does a cinder-block wall that serves as flood barrier for the building's boiler room.

Every one of the building's dozens of windows will be replaced, as will its electrical system and roof. Christiansen wants to save money by repurposing as many things as he can. The building's thick oak floors will be restored and an elevator in the basement will be refurbished to look more modern.

Christiansen said he spent less than $1 million to buy the building, but its starting price was originally $2 million. He declined to say how much he will spend to renovate the building.

Septagon Construction will be the main contractor on the project. Christiansen also hoped to get the building added to the National Register of Historic Places, which would make it eligible to receive state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

Construction will start in a few weeks, he said.

If everything goes well, Christiansen said he hopes to open the first and third floor by May. The basement will be cleaned by May, but likely will not be leased, Christiansen said. Soon Christiansen hopes to find a tenant for the second floor to allow construction to begin on all three main floors, Christiansen said.

"I'd like to do all the construction up front, even if it's electrical and HVAC, that way we're not hindering the people that are already in here by having construction people coming in and out," Christiansen said.


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