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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Although not as quickly as owners had hoped, the exterior of Ivy Terrace located at 500 E. Capitol Ave. is showing signs of progress. Now that the building has a new roof, work can be done inside, where they find more than originally anticipated upon uncovering of walls. Following Sunday's Porchfest festivities, a portion of the first floor will be open for a quick tour.

Progress is slow on redeveloping the area around Capitol Avenue, but the revitalization of the Capital City's historic corridor is starting to show the results of some much needed love.

The East Capitol Avenue Urban Renewal Area includes 116 pieces of property in downtown Jefferson City. Up to 40 of them could be condemned as part of an effort to fight blight in the area.

Since early 2019, the Jefferson City Housing Authority has purchased nine properties with financial help from the city.

Many of the blighted homes have been vacant for years, allowing them to fall into disrepair, get vandalized or home wild animals.

To date, two of the nine properties purchased by the Housing Authority needed demolition, one is still on the market, one home has new residents, and five are being worked on — with plans on the way to add more addresses to the list.

So far, the Housing Authority has completed two phases of the renewal process.

In the first phase, the organization acquired 101 and 105 Jackson St. through eminent domain. Both were owned by Barbara Buescher. They also purchased 103 Jackson St. from Stephen and Cheryl Bratten, who sold after the Housing Authority filed an eminent domain suit.

Phase two composed of purchasing 608 E. State St. and another eminent domain suit against Buescher for 500, 501, 507, 511 and 513 E. Capitol Ave.

Former Housing Authority Executive Director Cynthia Quetsch said the board is in the early stages of phase three: talking to property owners who might be willing to sell and considering options for those who don't. She said there may be more phases to the project, but that is too far out to know at this point.

Quetsch said the process started in 2016 when the city conducted a blight study around Adams and Lafayette streets and State and High streets.

With the area considered blighted, the Housing Authority started working on a plan of how to address the blight.

It involved talking to home owners and developing a plan for those willing to work on their own property and going through the eminent domain process for those who weren't.

Eminent domain allows a government to take private property and convert it into public use, while compensating the property owner.

The plan then composed of selling those properties at a reduced rate to people willing to rehabilitate them.

Demolition

Two of the properties — 608 State St. and 511 E. Capitol Ave. — aren't able to be saved. One was demolished in November, and the other scheduled to be torn down later this month.

The Housing Authority purchased 608 E. State St. during the second phase of properties. However, it was damaged in the 2019 tornado, and redevelopment was no longer an option.

It had to be demolished.

"It changed the ability to do the renovations," Quetsch said.

When Holly and Nathan Stitt purchased 511 E. Capitol Ave., they weren't able to tour it out of safety concerns going into the building.

"The Housing Authority had structural engineers come out, and they had deemed it unstable," Holly Stitt said. "I tried to figure out how to save it. I hired a third-party structural engineer to see if there's any way I can possibly save that building. It is not stable in anyway way, shape or form."

The building is still standing, but Stitt said demolition should happen this month.

Stitt said the exterior walls have vines growing through them and the building has taken on too much water for the walls to be stable.

"We've been salvaging what we can out of it," she said. "He (the engineer) said we shouldn't be in it at all so we're being very careful but salvaging what we can out of it."

The demolition will be complicated due to how close the building is to its neighbors.

She still plans to use the property, however, likely for a parking lot to serve the buildings on either side, which she also owns.

Available

The Housing Authority acquired 101 Jackson St. in 2019 through eminent domain. It is still on the market.

Michelle Wessler, current director of the Housing Authority, said she showed the home several weeks ago.

While several people have looked at the home, none have come to agreement with the Housing Authority on a price and plan of what to do with the property.

As part of the bidding process, potential buyers also need to submit a plan to the Housing Authority with a projected use for the building and timeline for the work.

Success

The program does have successes under its belt, though.

Levi and Amanda Burke Williams moved into the Standish Home, 103 Jackson St., last fall. While there's still some work to complete, mainly the brick work on the bottom story, the couple is happy in their home.

They moved in last September, somewhat later than planned, after purchasing the property shortly after the May 2019 tornado.

"We had a lot of family members who were really helpful," Amanda said.

The main issue the couple ran into was finding a contractor who was reliable and knew what to do for a historic home. Amanda works in historic preservation and wanted to make sure everything was done right.

They also documented the process on their blog, outstandishpreservation.weebly.com. While it was, in part, a resume item for both of them, they also hoped it would serve as inspiration for others interested in working on a historic property.

"(Rundown properties) is an issue we have here," Amanda said. "This is the same people we have in cities across the state and across the city. Jefferson City is finding something to do about that. That's really inspiring to people and cities outside of here who are going to see this transformation. In the next 10 years or so, they'll see what's happening and that will serve kind of as a role model for other people. So, documenting our story I think is so important."

Being worked on

The Parsons House, 105 Jackson St., was bought by Lake of the Ozarks resident Chris Stepnoski in November.

He could not be reached for comment but said previously he hoped to complete outside stabilization on the home by this spring and have the interior complete by spring 2022.

One of the crowning jewels of Capitol Avenue is Ivy Terrace, 500 E. Capitol Ave., which is now in the hands of sisters Wendy Gladbach and Debbie Sacilowski. They bought it just over a year ago.

Gladbach owns Ana Marie's Bridal Shop downtown but plans to move the business into the top floor of Ivy Terrace. The bottom floor will be a small event venue for everything from business meetings to baby showers or private weddings.

It had been something of a dream for Gladbach after she heard from several brides about wanting a small venue.

"If you've got 50 people coming to your wedding or you don't want to have a dance, maybe it's a smaller second marriage and you just don't want that many people, this is going to be a beautiful, classy place," she said.

When Ivy Terrace became available, the two thought it would be sold quickly. However, when it wasn't, they went in.

The family is doing all the work themselves.

Sacilowski has remodeled several homes over the years as a hobby and said she's focused on making sure it is structurally sound.

They've also delved into the history of the home and are doing everything they can to make it as historically accurate as possible.

This has included taking out walls, reworking light fixtures to fit the time period and even restoring one of the original bathtubs.

There are some things that won't be historically accurate, Sacilowski said, because they can't be with modern building standards, but they're trying to keep things as close as possible.

Both women said the building wouldn't have lasted much longer without somebody coming in to rebuild it since it had heavy rainwater damage and the floors were starting to buckle.

While the process seems slow, they are proud of what they've done so far.

Gladbach said when working last summer, they didn't have electricity or plumbing. Now, there's electricity running through the house.

"It's like raising your kids," Sacilowski said. "You don't see them changing every day. But then for somebody who hasn't seen them in two or three years, they're like, 'Wow your kids are growing up.'"

The two expect it to take another year before Ivy Terrace will be open for business, but they plan to open the doors today for PorchFest so people can see some of the work that's been done.

Along with 511 E. Capitol Ave., Stitt purchased three other properties around it.

Her company has been working on them gradually. They're currently focused on ensuring the buildings are stable and getting roofs in.

"We're working on the exterior and stabilization stuff before we can get to the fun interior stuff," she said.

Stitt plans to turn 501 E. Capitol Ave. into either three rental apartments or two with an office on the bottom floor.

She believes it was originally three apartments because of where the doors are located.

Next door, 507 E. Capitol Ave., was at one time split into two apartments but was originally an Italianate single-family home.

The plan is to return it to a single family home or make it into office space as well.

"It is beautiful," she said. "Not well taken care of because it needs some work, but beautiful."

The last property in line that Stitt owns is 513 E. Capitol Ave. She said they've been working "extensively on the interior because we can't do much with the exterior until 511 is out of the way because they're so close."

She said they're almost done with the inside of the building.

It will be two apartments, a bottom and top floor.

It does have some exterior work that needs to be done, such as a new roof, but Stitt said the building is "almost ready."

Advice

Stitt, Gladbach and Sacilowski agreed the process is taking longer than they expected, mostly because of the COVID-19 pandemic closing things down, causing supply shortages and interrupting work.

However, they all also encouraged others interested in renovating one of the properties in the area to go for it when the properties are available.

"There's a lot of stuff in these houses, they've been neglected for a long time," Stitt said. "There's been stuff left in them for a long time. You find some really interesting things.

"At the end of the day they have some pretty good bones, and they have some pretty good things, too," she said. "Those houses will be worth what you put in. Just don't expect it to be a fast turnaround."

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