Renovations that can change the city.
As a commercial real estate broker with Kolb Properties, Chris Gates has a great understanding of the properties for sale in Jefferson City and surrounding areas. He’s sold buildings to developers, and he’s watched as other properties around the area have been revitalized.
“So often we see properties around Jefferson City that get redone, and all of the sudden you see the completed project, but in reality, the process took a lot of time, effort, and skill. A lot of times, that is what the public doesn’t see or realize,” he says.
Jefferson City is rife with opportunity, and available properties range in condition. Some just need fresh paint and new carpet, while some have to be gutted with only four perimeter walls and a roof remaining. The first step to successfully revitalizing or renovating a property is learning the ropes, and Chris suggests residential properties are a manageable starting point. The most essential step is assembling a team of experts that have the knowledge and skill to move the project forward.
“So often we see properties around Jefferson City that get redone, and all of the sudden you see the completed project, but in reality, the process took a lot of time, effort, and skill.”Chris Gates
“You want to have a relationship with a banker and with a real estate agent who knows what they’re doing,” Chris says. “We have the same license, but we don’t all focus on the same thing, and you want to have someone that is an expert in what they do. You also want to have a good accountant, you want to have a relationship with a contractor, and if you get into something where you’re doing tax credit redevelopment, you need to get someone who is an expert in that.”
Insurance agent Charlie Christiansen cautions that it is also imperative to make sure there is a need for the space, which includes having letters of intent from would-be tenants in hand when approaching the bank for financing.
“You have to make sure the need is there,” Charlie says. “When I go to the bank, I have to make sure the need is already there. You wouldn’t want to create something that no one would want.”
Although he is an insurance agent by trade, Charlie Christiansen has become a key figure in the community and invested in dilapidated Jefferson City properties. After spending a considerable amount of time exploring the old JCD building as a child, he was especially interested in breathing new life into the space.
“You look around and there are cookie-cutter commercial spaces available and I knew the need in Jefferson City was for some cool, outside-the-box office spaces, and that is what I was after.”Charlie Christiansen
“I really didn’t want to see anybody tear it down,” Charlie says. “I’ve seen and been around that building since I was a kid, and I couldn’t stand to see anyone come in and doze it.”
But, despite his hope that he could reinvent the space that is now known as River Park, Charlie says he knew from a business standpoint that there had to be a need for the type of space he envisioned.
“You look around and there are cookie-cutter commercial spaces available, and I knew the need in Jefferson City was for some cool, outside-the-box office spaces, and that is what I was after,” he says. “I wanted to create a different, unique multiplex with different tenants and different occupancies.”
When Veterans United Home Loans, housed on the second floor of River Park, began to outgrow its space, Charlie’s wheels began to spin again. He had already purchased the old Berlin-Wheeler building next door to accommodate overflow parking from River Park. Though he hadn’t originally intended to rehab that space, when the need for more space arose, he went to the drawing board with architect Matt Rimiller and came up with a plan to rehab the building.
“If you’re resourceful, have money to put down on these properties, or have someone who is willing to sign for you, anybody can do it.”Charlie Christiansen
“The building had low ceilings, pink cubicles, it was rough,” Charlie says. “We blew the roof off, put in all new windows, and started over.”
Veterans United moved into its new space in June 2021. Although it can be challenging to navigate the ins and outs of rehabilitating an aging property, Charlie says connections with an architect or contractor are helpful.
“If the building is a certain age, you have additional considerations like lead, asbestos, weight loads, and systems that need fully updating,” he says. “If you’re resourceful, have money to put down on these properties, or have someone who is willing to sign for you, anybody can do it.”
With the roots from huge, old trees upsetting blocks of sidewalk and historic homes falling into disrepair, Capitol Avenue was due for some updates. As the main linkage between the Missouri State Capitol and the old Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment site, there was a strong desire to improve the streetscape, and in turn, spur additional redevelopment in the area. So, with $1.5 million in both city and county funds, the Capitol Avenue project was completed in 2017 with hopes of paving the way for other redevelopments to follow.
“A lot of times, if you see an area that needs some improvement from the property owner standpoint, but the local government isn’t investing in the streetscape, it’s hard for private property owners to do the same,” says Matt Morasch, director of public works for Jefferson City. “We tried to lead in this regard by updating the street so people might be willing to invest in the property they own. That’s the goal, and it’s starting to be a reality.”
Today, Capitol Avenue boasts new historic lighting, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, updated bus shelters, and bump-outs at the intersections to help pedestrians cross the streets. The street has been narrowed to give it more of an urban pedestrian feel, and smaller trees have replaced the old trees whose giant roots were creating uneven pavement.
In an effort to support festivals and other events, electrical stations were installed. This new feature means that food trucks can park and tap into the electricity, which avoids the use of loud, odorous generators.
“This has spurred some of the arts groups to come in and beautify the electric structures with small murals,” Matt says. “It will also allow for a festival district along the corridor.”
While Capitol Avenue has gotten a much-needed facelift, there is still plenty of opportunity for redevelopment in the area.
“One way local government can show we are interested in people doing things in this area is by doing things ourselves.”Matt Morasch
“There are some unique old structures along Capitol Avenue and the hope is that people are willing to put their private money into upgrading and remodeling them,” Matt says. “One way local government can show we are interested in people doing things in this area is by doing things ourselves.”
While the department of public works isn’t involved with building rehab, Matt says the city is concentrating efforts on code enforcement, with the hope that it will eliminate some of the risk associated with investing in an older neighborhood.
“We want to make sure we have good code enforcement in place so your neighbor isn’t doing something at their place that would harm the value of the place you’re investing money,” Matt says. “We want to make sure that if people are willing to put money in these properties, they can feel good knowing a neighboring property won’t fall into disrepair and affect you in a negative way.”
“Whenever a property is redeveloped in our community the benefits are exponential,” Chris Gates adds.“The neighboring properties benefit, the local economy benefits, and the opportunity to draw businesses to our community increases. It’s a win all the way around for our community.”