See how visionaries are breathing new life into River Park.
As a kid, the JCD Building sometimes served as Charlie Christiansen’s indoor soccer field. He’d spend breaks from local tournaments kicking around a ball with his friend, Chris Schneider, whose parents, Judy and Gene, owned the place.
The four-story building, located in the center of town at West McCarty Street and Industrial Drive, with its red brick facade and factory-style architectural qualities, always drew Christiansen’s interest and admiration. As an adult, he tried to purchase the building, but the price was too steep based on the building’s condition and the long list of updates and renovations required to bring it back to life.
Then, around 2016, Christiansen had a dream. In that dream, West Main Pizza, which he owns, had opened in the very building he had delighted in as a kid.
“The very next day, Judy and Gene came into West Main Pizza and I told them, ‘I had a dream that I owned your building,’” Christiansen says. “Gene said, ‘We can make it happen, let’s go take a peek at it.’”
His impression of the building as an adult was the same as it was when he was a kid.
Wooden floors, pillars, and beams were sourced from the 1904 World’s Fair.
“I thought, ‘This is amazing,’” Christiansen says. “[But] it needed new electrical, mechanical, plumbing, flooring — a complete gut job. It was scary to think about a 44,000-square-foot building that needed this much renovation. The costs were through the roof of what I could think of. But we came to terms on a price and made it happen.”
Over the course of almost two years, Christiansen says he visited the building 80 to 90 times. He, his wife, Jessica, and his father, also named Charlie, officially purchased the building in October 2018.
“It was in extremely rough shape, but we’ve done other rehabs, so I knew it had potential,” says Jessica Christiansen, who served as the building’s designer and business strategist. “I loved the old metal stairwell and elevator doors; they’re huge and super heavy. I love the wooden floors, pillars, and beams, which were sourced from the 1904 World’s Fair, and the wooden ceilings as well.”
Jessica says a big goal from the very beginning was to preserve the historical value of the building and restore and feature its original character. Though River Park had some design challenges, like a long and skinny footprint and fire escapes on opposite ends of the top floor, that made maximizing space and flow a challenge, Jessica says architect Matt Rimiller’s handiwork and commitment made their vision a reality. The original elevator cart in the front entrance, the original metal doors, the original maple floors on the first and top floors, the beams, and the fire escapes all stand out as beautiful historic elements. A final touch was the tall, black letters spelling out “River Park” that grace the top of the building.
“I had several non-negotiables, such as replacing the soffit around the building and revamping the porch, recreating a grander entrance, and bringing back the exterior aesthetic to what it was originally,” she says. “When the building was used by JC Distributors for furniture, they made modifications as needed to suit their business needs. They had turned windows into doors and bricked over doors. Many of their renovations were done at different times, understandably, but I knew I wanted to restore it as closely as we could.”
Physical modifications to the building were just one step in the official process. Another factor was who and what would fill it.
In November, Big Whiskey’s American Bar and Restaurant opened in 6,000 square feet of space on the first floor. When Big Whiskey’s ownership group, which includes Christiansen’s friend, Ryan Bohl, came to look at the space, Christiansen says they immediately fell in love with it.
“They took one look at the building and thought it screamed Big Whiskey’s,” Christiansen says.
The restaurant serves up classic American bar food while boasting a bar full of libations, including, of course, ample amounts of whiskey. Big Whiskey’s dining area is characterized by exposed brick, large windows that let natural light flood the space, and original maple floors that Jessica describes as “absolutely stunning.” The restaurant has a large patio area, complete with overhead heaters to extend patio season into colder months, while the signature Flag Room provides private seating for almost 30 guests.
“I think the windows are the most notable change to the building,” says Jessica. “I fought really hard behind the scenes to get faux muntins to mirror what was there originally. The windows were originally wood, so we used metal windows that have the same pattern of panes as the originals. They’re gorgeous, and we get the most compliments on those.”
Sharing the first floor with Big Whiskey’s is Initially Yours, which sells unique gifts for all ages as well as monogrammed clothing and accessories. The shop relocated from its previous location on West Miller Street, and their River Park store surrounds customers with modern design, including metal details, high ceilings, and sputnik-style chandeliers. Owners Trisha and Matt Sandbothe also took it as an opportunity for a slight rebrand, swapping out their candy-colored aesthetic for a cleaner and sleeker experience.
“We just kind of grew up from that after 10 years,” says Trisha. “It’s a whole new vibe for the store. Everybody loves the new look and the new logo.”
As of January 1, River Park’s second floor is also under lease, with Missouri Hospice and Palliative Care occupying 3,200 square feet and Military United Insurance occupying 6,000 square feet.
“Physical modifications to the building were just one step in the official process. Another factor was who and what would fill it.”
As Christensen and Bohl, who partnered in developing the top floor of the building, began to consider how the building’s upper floors would be best used, Christiansen says they knew they wanted to create a unique shared workspace. Today, River Park’s top floor consists of 10 offices known as River Park Office Suites. The set-up allows renters to share common work conveniences.
“So often people want to lease space, but there are other necessary amenities, like bathrooms, a break room, a conference room, a reception area,” Charlie says. “Then there is one price for the space, but there’s also water and electricity and other utilities, and the prices keep going on and on. We wanted something that is one price where you get all the amenities. That’s how we came up with the top floor.”
Charlie’s Shelter Insurance agency, the Christiansen Agency, and Bohl’s CPA firm, Bohl, House & Samek CPAs and Advisors, both have office space on the top floor.
“We have separate offices, but we share an 8-by-10 area with a coffee pot and a mini fridge,” Christiansen says. “We also share a 5-by-50 foot balcony off the building where we can have coffee in the morning, an adult beverage in the afternoon, or just take in the scenery.”
Other tenants on the top floor include High 5 Communications, a full-service traditional and digital marketing, public relations, and design agency; Wash Authority LLC, which provides exterior cleaning, like house washing, roof and window washing, and commercial building washing; Total Lending Concepts, which provides home loans; and The Company, a full-service real estate firm with agents specializing in all aspects of real estate, from commercial and residential to vacant land and income properties.
With the exception of two open spaces in the top floor’s shared area and the flood zone in the basement, the building is 100% occupied.
Christiansen says the years of effort and planning, both prior to and after purchasing the building, have paid off.
“We struggled to figure out what would make River Park a place people would want to come to,” he says. “Bringing back some of the history of this old building, creating new jobs here, and creating a cool place to come to were things we were really wanting to do. We get a lot of compliments about the building and people are very happy to be here. So it was worth it.”
(provided by Charlie Christiansen)
- Architect: Matt Rimiller with Rimiller Architects
- General Contractor: James Stark, Stark Construction
- EngineerS: Brian McMillian and Mike Bates, Central Missouri Professional Services
- Jeremy Patrick, Engineer J Squared
- Fred Mallicoat, Mallicoat and Winslow Engineers
- Lender: Scott Juergensmeyer, Mid-America Bank
- Attorney: John Landwehr
- Windows and building materials: Scruggs Lumber
- Window installation: Chad Tellinghast, CST Home Improvements
- Electrician: Randy Rehagen, Rehagen Electric
- HVAC: Wayne Kempker, Kempker Heating and Cooling
- Concrete work: Daniel Olson, Olson Concrete Services
- Plumber: Andy Wilbers Plumbing
- Painter: Mike Cook Painting
- Framing and sheetrock: Matt Lockwood, L and S Construction
- Framing: Lawrence Martin, Martin Structures
- Glass: Mark’s Mobile Glass
- Deck structure: Joe Pope and Scott Weber at IEI
- Specialty metal products: Ryan Weber and Ryan Dearixon, PMF
- Roof: Mike Busch, All seasons Roofing
- Railings: Dave Toebben, Midwest Welding
- Sheetrock: Chad Livingston drywall
- Metal doors: Danny Wilson, Superior Openings
- Flooring: Beautiful Home Interiors
- Deck: Dean Durbin at 12 D Erection
- Hardwood Floors: Justin Luebbert Hardwood floors
- Tile and flooring: Robbie Bax, Bax Homeworks LLC
- Sprinklers: Capital Automatic Sprinklers
- Interior Doors: Boone County Millwork
- Retaining walls: Greystone Foundations
- Security: Mike Gibler, Goldfish Electronic
- Tuckpointing: Jason “The Mason’” Walsh
- Asphalt: Jefferson Asphalt
- Blasting, cleaning and sealing: Wash Authority LLC
- Brian Rackers, Midwest Block and Brick
- Exterior painting: MC Property Management
- Striping: Luke Mueller at Relium Striping
- Soffit: Kevin at Rocan Construction
- Historic tax liaison: Jane Beetem
- Concrete yard: Cole County Industries
Note from Charlie: Special thank you to all of the contractors on the list and many more that were left out.