Mo. contractor nears finish on historic building renovation

Mo. contractor nears finish on historic building renovation

Photo by Roger Nomer, Joplin Globe

A pair of century-old buildings in the downtown area are ready for tenants wanting like to set up offices or businesses in Joplin, Mo.'s first environmentally sustainable retrofit of historically designated properties.

Owners Jeff and Carolina Neal, of Neal Group Construction, are ready to sign up tenants for the 200 Block Commons project that has been under construction for about two years, reports the Joplin Globe.

They debuted the buildings this week at a Downtown Joplin Alliance Wineshare event.

Built in 1920 as the Hurlbut Mortuary and Chapel, 212 S. Joplin Ave., is a late Gothic revival-style red brick building trimmed in terra cotta. A wall of stained glass illuminates the front wall of what had been the chapel. Next to the chapel, the original subway tile on the walls and much of the mosaic floor tile are intact in what had been the mortuary's preparation room.

The mortuary closed in 1947, and the building was acquired by the Joplin Salvation Army, which used it until 1987. After that, some hoarders took possession of it, and it was used for their storage for 30 years. The stained glass windows survived because they were boarded over.

Seven years ago, the city targeted the building for demolition because the roof had collapsed into the second floor.

The Neals have retained the brick structure, but fitted it with a modern ductless heat and air system, LED lights, water-efficient fixtures, a recycling station and solar panels that the couple say will save thousands dollars in electricity bills.

It is certified as a green building by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

Neal said it is the first LEED-certified office building in Joplin. LEED-certified means that buildings have been independently verified to use less water and energy, to be otherwise sustainable and are built to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are solar panels and water-efficient fixtures, "everything that goes into giving a 100-year old building a better next century," Neal said.

"We're hoping this also becomes a model for green, historic renovations. There are additional costs in getting LEED certified. But if you want to be an example, and you want to lead, and you want to say, 'We can do this here,' then you have to do it."

The renovation means that the city saved the cost of demolishing the building and did not add it to a landfill, another facet of a green build, the Neals said.

Outside, there is a garden as a place for tenants to sit. Welded sculptures line the wall, based on art the Neals saw on a trip to Brussels. The sculptures resemble a line of flower plants.

Across the alley at 215 S. Wall Ave., a red brick square building is going through much the same treatment in terms of green retrofitting. It was built in 1911 for a truck dealership called the White Motor Co. After that, it was used for years as a College Press book storage building.

The Neals recycled 30,000 books that were stored there when they bought the building. They have been using it as storage for their construction company and still have some work to do to finish the interior. Neal said he will finish the interiors of both buildings to the size and specifications of tenants.

This building also is being converted to office space. It, too, is equipped with solar panels.

Depending on what type of businesses go in, there could be savings on electricity of $500 to several thousand dollars a month, the Neals said.

Next door to the south, a building that once served as a Model-T car dealership has been converted to the Ford Lofts. The Neals also have bought a building to the north that is covered in a metal facade. Under the facade is a brick building on the corner that he said the couple will save and use as offices for the Neal company. In between it and the Hurlbut building is a structure that will be demolished to create parking for the buildings.

"We are giving quality of life to the neighbors with these buildings," Carolina Neal said.


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