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story.lead_photo.caption The demolition of the structure at 200 E. High St. has begun. Crews from ARSI, the project's Jefferson City contractor, and Ahrens Contracting in St. Louis, the sub-contractor, began carefully dismantling the building Wednesday morning, being careful not to cause damage to the exterior wall of 202 E. High St. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.
Listen to this week's episode of News Tribune on Tapabout the downtown crumbling building.

Almost 22 months after the west wall of 200 E. High St. partially collapsed, some residents gathered at the corner of East High and Madison streets Wednesday to watch construction crews begin tearing down the building.

Contractor ARSI Inc. is demolishing the north, south and west walls of 200 E. High St., leaving the shared wall between the buildings at 200 and 202 E. High St. intact.

While it's nice to see some resolution on 200 E. High St., Jefferson City Operations Division Director Britt Smith said, there are still several other chapters to this story.

"This is just the beginning of the next step (because) we need to figure out what we're going to do with that space moving forward," Smith said. "I think it's more than just this building coming down — which is a terrible thing — but we certainly want to turn this into a positive and figure out what is the best thing we can do with that space."

Smith said he isn't sure what that next phase looks like. He anticipates city staff will receive some direction soon.

Neidert Properties LLC previously owned 200 E. High St. but transferred the property to the city earlier this year as part of a settlement agreement between the city, Neidert Properties and Carol and Ruben Wieberg, who own 202 E. High St.

Neidert also agreed to pay the city $7,300.

Even though the Jefferson City Council approved a $186,000 contract with ARSI Inc. in January to demolish 200 E. High St., the city will not place a tax lien on the property, City Counselor Ryan Moehlman said.

Andrew Neidert, with Neidert Properties LLC, told the News Tribune he did not wish to comment on the demolition of 200 E. High St.

As for the Wiebergs, they're already planning their next steps.

After the west wall of 200 E. High St. partially collapsed in June 2018 due to water infiltration and hidden decay, city staff ruled the common wall between 200 and 202 E. High St. was failing and had to be repaired.

The Wiebergs reinforced and secured the supporting wall last month.

Once 200 E. High St. is demolished, the Wiebergs plan to fix the exterior of the common wall. They must finish repairing the common wall — or the west wall of 202 E. High St. — within 90 days after the city finishes demolishing 200 E. High St., weather permitting, according to the settlement agreement.

The Wiebergs plan to reopen 202 E. High St. eventually.

"We're hoping to get a business back in the bottom, but with everything going on, everybody is jittery about the business situation because of COVID-19," Carol Wieberg said.

She is unsure when she will have a business in 202 E. High St.

The buildings at 200 and 202 E. High St. have been vacant since mid- to late 2018 after the city ruled both structures were dangerous.

Love2Nourish and Mo Juice previously operated inside 202 E. High St., while Law firms Berry Wilson LLC and Turnbull & Stark LLC were in 200 E. High St.

From his downtown office inside Central Bank, Ward 1 Jefferson City Councilman David Kemna has stared at the crumbling building for almost two years.

"I'm glad to see that it's actually coming down, to be honest," he said. "I think that the last two years of being on the council, I've gotten more inquiries about that building on when it's coming down probably more than any other topic."

Most people he has talked with are glad to see the building come down.

The overall demolition process began Monday and is expected to take two to three weeks.

"When most people think of a demolition, you just get in there with a sledgehammer or a big piece of equipment and just knock the crap out of it until it falls down," Smith said. "This is really more of a piece-by-piece methodical process, and the reason that's being done is to preserve that common wall to make sure we don't transfer any undue stress onto that wall."

During the first part of the demolition, the intersection of East High and Madison streets will be blocked. Smith anticipates the intersection will be blocked until the end of the week.

During the next phase of demolition, East High Street will reopen to traffic.

Once the building is demolished, Smith said, the city will begin repairing the damage to Madison Street already caused by the building and any possible damage caused by the demolition.

The city will also do a comprehensive evaluation of the common wall between 200 and 202 E. High St. to decide what the Wiebergs must do to repair it, Smith added.

Over the last year and a half, Neidert and the Wiebergs missed several city deadlines to repair or demolish their buildings. The city later ruled it could abate the nuisance if the property owners didn't repair or demolish the two buildings.

Most recently, the Wiebergs had until Dec. 9, 2019, to begin repairing or demolishing 202 E. High St. If they didn't, the city threatened to begin the demolition process the following day. However, city staff decided not to begin the process so they could continue negotiations between Neidert and the Wiebergs.

Since fall 2018, Neidert and the Wiebergs debated who was responsible for repairing and maintaining the common wall, with both filing petitions in the Cole County Circuit Court.

After Cole County Presiding Judge Pat Joyce ruled last year Neidert Properties owned the common wall, the Wiebergs filed an appeal with the Missouri Western District Court of Appeals last October, asking the court to reconsider Joyce's judgment.

The civil suits were dismissed as part of the settlement agreement with the city.

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