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story.lead_photo.caption Demolition work began Thursday at the old St. Mary's Hospital. Photo by Mark Wilson / News Tribune.

Jefferson City approved a demolition permit Thursday, giving Farmer Holding Company subsidiary F&F Development permission to start demolition of the old St. Mary's Hospital building.

Clearance for the demolition permit had been held up as the demolition contractor, Chicago-based FE Group, waited for approval of a city business license, Jefferson City building official Larry Burkhardt said.

In August 2017, the Jefferson City Council approved FHC's plan to redevelop the site of the 113-year-old hospital, using tax increment financing. The company proposed building a $44.6 million project involving Lincoln University or a $30.9 million project creating only commercial space. The Lincoln plan would build 21,000 square feet of commercial space and leave space for Lincoln University in the old hospital for its nursing or other programs. The commercial plan would create 30,200 square feet of commercial space.

Curt Neuenswander, who leads development and construction projects for Farmer Holding Company, said Tuesday the Lincoln project is still in consideration.

FHC had said, before the TIF's approval, a medical office building and original parts of the hospital would remain standing and be converted into offices.

In April 2016, Overland Park appraisal firm Valbridge Property Advisors found each of the structures on the property were near the end of their useful lives. The study found the original building's steel frame was in average condition, according to a study attached to FHC's original TIF application with the city.

"Based upon its age, each of the structures that was constructed before the mid-1980s is considered to be past the end of its useful lives," Valbridge found in the study. "Would require a major renovation in order to have a functional utility for hospital use or any other use."

In the original TIF proposal, FHC never explicitly committed to keep the original St. Mary's Hospital standing.

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"The redevelopment will consist of the redevelopment area, demolition of unusable structures, restoration and rehabilitation of the original St. Mary's Hospital building and the medical office building, construction of new commercial buildings and architecture and engineering of such improvements," the TIF application stated.

In August 2016, FHC asked the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office to add the original hospital to the state historic registry. This would've made the building eligible for federal historic tax credits. The SHIPO application said the building was in good condition.

"Much of what detracts from the historic image of the hospital is removable," the application said.

Still, SHIPO denied the application because renovations in 1932, 1964, 1988, 1995 and 2000 detracted from the historical value of the building, commissioners tasked with deciding the fate of the application said in documents obtained by the News Tribune through a public records request.

FHC Principal Rob Kingsbury did not return requests for comment.

In a letter to the Historic Preservation Commission in May 2018, Kingsbury said FHC hoped to use the federal historic tax credits to assist with the cost of redeveloping and preserving the structure, according to the Historic Preservation Commission's meeting packet for its June 2018 meeting.

"Despite the challenging news, we refused to give up on doing our best to preserve the history of the property," Kingsbury said in the letter.

However, in June, Kingsbury said F&F Development brought in seven structural engineers to survey the building's condition after SHIPO denied the landmark application. Those engineers found concerns with the structural integrity and performance of the original hospital building, Kingsbury said at the time.

Later in June, the Jefferson City Historic Preservation Commission unanimously approved FHC's application to demolish the original 1905 part of the hospital. F&F Development, which oversees the redevelopment, plans to remove, clean and reuse the existing stone portion of the hospital to build a new building in the same style and location as the old hospital.

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