Heibel-March Store could change hands once again

COLUMBIA, 6/22/13 (Op Ed) -- A building contractor with a rising reputation for quality historic renovations may become the new owner of the Heibel-March Store adjacent to Eugene Field Park at the corner of Rangeline and Wilkes Blvd.
Bob Grove and Grove Construction submitted a proposal to take over the building, which has sat empty and derelict since the city acquired it roughly 15 years ago. Council members start deliberations on the proposal Monday night.
Grove's potential acquisition is good news for historic preservationists, neighborhood leaders, and nearby residents who have to had to tolerate the intolerable since 1998: a building so code-deficient that were it not for city ownership, it would have been demolished years ago.

Not exactly good role modeling for a private sector expected to obey property maintenance codes.

Like the Blind Boone Home, city officials erected a no-win proposition for several non-profit groups, who struggled to raise renovation money for a building on land they did not own.  City Hall owned the land, but sold the building. Needless to say, no bank will lend on such a proposition, which private donors found equally dubious.

In several ironic turns, city officials and Council members barked at the floundering non-profits for their failure to do what should have been done by the building's original owners -- City Hall.  Meanwhile, both Council and senior staff had no problem spending millions to renovate the city's office space in old buildings -- the Parks Department and Municipal Court the best examples.

This writer, who owns a home near the Heibel-March, personally contributed $1,700 to replace its back roof, and loaned Central Missouri Community Action (CMCA) nearly $500 to secure a building permit they let lapse.  A now famous photo shows CMCA director Darin Preis securing a broken glass door (above) after his group threw in the towelKoonse Glass donated the glass for the door, on request of another Heibel-March fan, Carl Edwards, Sr., a local attorney and father of the racing great.
It was hard seeing all those donations go to waste.

In any event, the city's moves to make right some long-suffering situations -- Council members recently voted to fund restoration of the Blind Boone Home after 15 years of city ownership -- are supremely positive for the entire community. Grove has included a set of building plans with his proposal, and looks like a welcome new neighbor.
-- Mike Martin for the Columbia Heart Beat