The old is forever new as two of Jefferson City’s iconic historical buildings are propelled into a new age.

History runs through Jefferson City like tap water. In a city created to be the capitol of Missouri, there’s an undeniable emotional connection to the city’s history. 

In the 1970s and 1980s, Jefferson City saw a surge of historical revitalization. Today, the trend has snapped back into action as local and out of state developers have found potential in seemingly hopeless roadside eyesores.

“There’s a pent-up demand for these kinds of projects, and not just from the developer’s standpoint, but for people who want to move into something like this,” says Randy Allen, president and CEO of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce.

Randy Allen, president and CEO of the Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce

Two of the city’s most well-known structures — the International Shoe Factory and the JCD Furniture building — once symbols of economic energy and strength before falling into disuse, are now coming back with vigor.

“These are two good examples of buildings people drive by every day and say ‘Gosh, why doesn’t somebody do something with those,’ and now we’re there,” says Allen, “It’s like critical mass. Once you get the ball rolling, it’s hard to stop the ball rolling.”

Rooted in Family

Charlie Christiansen’s relationship with the JCD Furniture building began in childhood. Close friends with the previous owners, Christiansen remembers taking breaks there between soccer matches and running through the hallways.

Christiansen, along with his wife, Jessica Christiansen, and his father, Charlie J. Christiansen, purchased the building together. Years of back and forth negotiation dwindled down the original $3 million price to under $1 million. Their established connection has made the acquisition and renovation feel organic.

“Jefferson City. This is our home. This is where I was born and raised. This is where I want to stay,” says Christiansen. “I want to grow the city. By taking this old vacant building that’s been empty for ten years, and bringing the life back to it — I think that’s very cool. I hope the city is as excited about the project as we are.”

Originally constructed in 1905 as a shoe factory, the three-story building transitioned use when JCD Furniture purchased the building in 1959, making the building’s interior half industrial work rooms and half modern furniture showrooms. Dismantled beams and posts from the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis are believed to be used throughout the building.

The building will transition again to become the Lincoln Center, named after Charlie and Jessica’s daughter. Christiansen wants the building to be open in July 2019.

“The one thing I really love about this [building] is that it’s the number one traffic spot in town. There’s a 40,000 car per day traffic rate. It’s great exposure for any office,” says Christiansen.

Christiansen approached both Big Whiskey’s American Restaurant & Bar, of Springfield, and Initially Yours, in Jefferson City, to move onto the ground floor as anchor tenants. Big Whiskey’s will take the east highway 5,500-square-foot space. Initially Yours will have the opposite side’s 4,500-square-foot space. Christiansen already has planned to expand outside with a 50-by-16 concrete restaurant patio. Both anchor tenants have signed 10-year leases.

Eight of the 11 third floor office spaces have been secured. Some of the tenants include High Five Communications, Mary J. Browning Law Firm, and Wash Authority.

The Christiansen Family

Jessica Christiansen, a family attorney and interiors enthusiast at heart, has overseen the modern industrial loft vibe, ensuring a balance between nostalgia staples and modern updates. Efficiency features, such as windows, are being used throughout the building to make it as sustainable as possible.

While the Christiansen’s contractor James Stark has yet to begin construction, the tightly woven family is chomping at the bit, having already gotten their hands dirty with light demolition.

Love Does Cost a Thing

The biggest hurdle for historic renovation is whatever is hiding behind the drywall. The unknown problems of neglected buildings lead to unknown costs and lost time. These buildings require a lot of TLC to be restored to their former glory; a passion for the building and community it lives in seems as essential as a hammer.

While Jefferson City does not give local grants or tax cuts towards historical building restoration, Missouri is one of the select states that offers stacking federal and state historic restoration tax credits.

“People can argue if it’s worth the tax dollars, but historical properties are a huge magnet for developers,” says Allen. The tax credit requires that distinctive materials, features, finishes, construction techniques, and examples of craftsmanship be preserved.

“I am a supporter of infield development,” says Allen, “For example, the houses on Capitol Avenue — if they cannot be saved from an economic standpoint, tear them down. Build new stuff that has the same character that the surrounding houses have.”

When working with a historic property, an owner has access to valuable design features at a fraction of new construction cost. An owner can have a level of quality and artisanship that may not even be possible, let alone financially feasible, today.

With those artisan touches comes something that can never be replicated: a story.

In our world of brand development, an existing story is a huge asset. By sharing and building on existing stories, an owner can add serious value to their investment.

Diagram of Fun Factory’s First Floor

All Fun and Games

A pair with no shortage of enthusiasm is Raymond and Ellen Latocki. If you listen to the infectious couple talk about their plans for the International Shoe Factory, you’ll need to hear it again.

The 87,000-square-foot, five-story building will be parts commercial, residential, and retail. Apartments will fill the fourth and fifth floors, while the third floor will be split into a banquet event space and a flex office space. The ground and second floors will be entertainment-based, with everything from a haunted house to bowling to axe throwing.

“I have 20,000 square feet of escape room games, a haunted house, blacklight miniature golf course — all packed up ready to come here. I have 10 tractor trailers waiting to come here,” says Ellen.

The five-year plan starts on the ground floor and slowly works its way outside to zip lines and miniature golf. The wild business venture is unique to Jefferson City and the surrounding area. While the plan sounds ambitious, anything is possible.

“The thing that I’ve always done is something my dad told me a long time ago: If you’re not having fun at what you do, don’t do it,” says Raymond.

Considering the fondness bored teenagers have for vandalism, the five-story building is surprisingly barren from graffiti and broken glass, leaving the turn-of-the-century industrial architecture in remarkable shape.

The Latockis have successfully owned entertainment and hospitality businesses in and around Portland, Oregon, for decades. They’ve been hunting for about 10 years for a permanent location to accumulate all their business ventures.

Options in Oregon were either in a poor location, too small, or too expensive. Jefferson City fit just right, from its size to its community support. When the pair discovered the factory’s availability in late summer 2018, an offer was submitted the same day. After three weeks of negotiating, the deal was finalized.

Jefferson City has banded together in a determined effort to support the ventures — support that could not be more appreciated from an entrepreneur. As Raymond says, “If the community is behind you, you’re going to succeed.”