Kickoff for The Gryphon gets underway
April 04, 2009

Thanks in large part to historic preservation funding, Brownfields redevelopment tax credits, development block grant funding and tax abatement this eyesore in Joplin will be able to undergo restoration through the combined talents of Gryphon Building, LLC. The group was able to put together $8.6 million, they say, to completely fund renovation.

A lot of history stands behind the brick building at 1027 S. Main St., Joplin. Completed in 1915 the 123,000 square foot building served the longest as a warehousing center for the Interstate Grocers Association, was the home of Bagcraft before it moved to Baxter Springs, and in recent memory was used as a spook house during Halloween for a Joplin High School fund-raising project.

Newsman Jack Kennedy remembers when Four States Broadcasting Inc. was housed in the Interstate Grocers building. (KFSB 1310 was one of the first regional stations in the area with news, sports and live variety.) The station studios and offices were on the ground floor to the left of the front door, he said, and the late Harry Easley of Webb City was president of the station as well as an Interstate Grocers Association official.

Developer Paul Whitehill, at left, presents a framed photo of a rendering of "The Gryphon" to Senator Gary Nodler at a ceremony April 3, 2009 kicking off redevelopment of the historic Interstate Grocers building, also known as the Bagcraft Building after it housed a manufacturer of flexible packaging.

A montage of photos depicts the commercial activity that took place in 1932 in the Interstate Grocers building. Most of them show the packaging of products for redistribution.

Senator Gary Nodler, an honored guest at the building's dedication ceremonies yesterday, said that he attributes his family's relocation to the Neosho area in 1961 after his father had created a company that purchased a failing Rogers bakery, rescuing it while maintaining rental space in the building.

Nodler, who said he was a strong supporter of tax credit programs, issued a strong "however" to the audience when he added the need for limits on the use of taxpayer money that don't exist today.

Asbestos-laced window panes

Last month the Missouri Department of Economic Development approved for the Gryphon project up to $1.69 million in remediation tax credits through the Brownfield (sic) Redevelopment Program. The Brownfields Economic Development Initiative is a grant program that HUD administers for the purpose of stimulating and promoting economic and community development. HUD describes its program as being "designed to assist cities with the redevelopment of abandoned, idled and underused industrial and commercial facilities where expansion and redevelopment is burdened by real or potential environmental contamination."

Although lead paint and pigeon droppings are present, asbestos remediation will take a good part of the funding, according to Jeff Neal, owner of Neal Group Construction, LLC of Joplin, the specialists in restoration and renovation that will be working on the project. Pointing to a wall of windows comprised of small panes, Neal explained that in the early twentieth century asbestos was used as part of the caulking agent for connecting them.

Heavy plaster columns fill the space on the first floor of the Interstate Grocers building. At one time each column was embellished with folksy stenciling now faded with time.

An architect's rendering of the proposed office space was created although the configuration is modifiable. The building will be LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified,with 120,000 sq. ft. of office space for 500 employees and with full ADA accessibility.

After selecting office layouts, tenants will have the opportunity to select carpet finishes as well as voice and data locations. Floors 2 through 5 are planned to have raised access floor systems for voice and data cabling and high-efficiency heating and cooling. Planned for the first floor are a gallery for the display of art and a restaurant. Ample parking for 400 cars will surround the building.

Joplin city manager Mark Rohr, pictured at left, told the audience that knowing the people involved in the reconstruction project "gave a level of comfort in agreeing to help finance the project of this magnitude." Rohr called the project a "bookend of downtown development," commenting that there was another bookend to the north and citing the need to do a lot of work in between. To accomplish this, he directed his comments to the developers, suggesting that Gryphon Building might someday contain an "s."

Target date for completion of the Gryphon Building is spring 2010. For lease information go here.

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