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story.lead_photo.caption In order to minimize the amount of dust flying in the air, a constant spray of water is applied to the demolition site on Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021, in the rear of 206-210 E. High St., the former JC Penney building in downtown Jefferson City. The rear portion of the building is being removed due to damage caused by water infiltration over time. ARSI is the job's contractor on which the demolition work was subcontracted to Ahrens Demolition of St. Louis. Photo by Julie Smith / News Tribune.

Workers started tearing down part of the old JC Penney building Tuesday in downtown Jefferson City.

The building has been vacant since 2014, but the owner is working to get it ready for new occupants.

Ryan Gilmore, owner of Cameo Construction out of Ashland, purchased 206-210 E. High St. in 2018 with the goal of turning it into condos and retail space.

That's still the plan, but it's flexible, he said.

"In theory, that's the plan," he said. "Commercial and probably storage (downstairs) and then residential up above. Unless someone were to come in and want to turn the upper levels into commercial space for their office. We'd entertain that idea. First come, first serve is the easiest way to explain it."

However, not all of the 36,000-square-foot building will be in use.

A partial demolition started Tuesday, which will remove around 10,000 square feet.

The addition in the back of the building was not part of the original structure, he said, but was added while JC Penney operated out of it, likely in the 1970s or '80s.

Gilmore said that section of the building had too much water damage, and it was just going to be more cost efficient to tear it down.

The plan is to turn the area into a parking lot.

That back section of the building was the only one with a flat roof, Gilmore said.

"Everything else has a pretty decent pitch to it," he said. "That's where the majority of the water damage was, and it's just a lot more cost effective to tear it down. The benefit is having more parking space."

At the moment, the only available parking for the property is along East High Street, which can get busy during the day.

While there's still more work to do on the property, Gilmore said his goal is to show it within the next month to potential buyers or leasers.

He said the next step, before he can show the property, is to get the main building into a "white box" situation, which basically means a blank canvas with the essentials such as plumbing and lighting in place.

Additionally, the building needs new windows and paint.

Gilmore said he plans to have three entrances to the building, since it technically takes up three addresses on East High Street.

Another key feature that needs to be done, he said, is to update the facade on the building.

Gilmore and co-owner Derek Eilers were approved in 2019 for a tax abatement from the Jefferson City Housing Authority to remove the original metal facade and put up one that's more historical.

"Right now, it's got like that aluminum trim and stuff there," Gilmore said. "So we need to make it look more dated on the facade for those grants. There's that we're going to have to do down the hill. We're going to do that this fall."

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