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Compass plans to revamp Heer's building

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

The Compass Institute, armed with approval for $250,000 in Neighborhood Assistance Program state tax credits, is planning an $8 million to $10 million renovation of one of downtown's largest buildings.

The Compass Institute plans to turn the building that formerly housed Heer's department store into The Harbor, a resource and administrative center for small nonprofit groups in the Springfield area.

Roy Jenkins, executive director of the Compass Institute, said the potential for renovation of the structure is even greater now that the company has been awarded $250,000 in state NAP credits.

"Obviously, this will be a large project and will total anywhere from $8 (million) to $10 million to complete, so the NAP credits will only be a portion of the entire picture," Jenkins said.

Purchasing the building itself will set the group back $1.5 million, according to Letty Van Kleeck, who lists the 150,000-square-foot building for sale with Carol Jones, Realtors.

This will be the second attempt by Compass to renovate an old building. The first was in 1996, when the company planned to renovate a building at the corner of Chestnut Expressway and National Avenue.

That year, the group had its NAP credits rescinded by the Missouri Department of Economic Development because members of its board said they were not in fact members. Jenkins said the problem was a simple mistake.

"We didn't get things in writing that we should have. It was poor communications, basically," Jenkins said.

The group never had a meeting electing the board members officially, Jenkins said. Oct. 25, 1996, the company had a ground-breaking ceremony for its new facility, and it was at that time, Jenkins said, that "everything blew up."

A member of the board came forward and said she was not on the board, and the Department of Economic Development then placed a hold on the group's NAP credits, which had been awarded for fiscal year 1997.

The withdrawal of the credits was the subject of a lawsuit the Compass Institute filed in Greene County, which has since been transferred to Cole County.

The suit asks for the credits to be returned. A hearing is set for June 22 in Cole County on the Compass Institute's motion for summary judgment.

Though talks have been ongoing regarding the purchase of the Heer's building, the Compass Institute does not yet have a contract on the property. The plan for The Harbor calls for a bank tenant to occupy part of the first floor, and for a 500- to 600-seat banquet hall.

Jenkins said he "has had conversations with two or three banks in town," but declined to name them at this point. One tenant is also looking at leasing the entire second floor, and the upper floors (the building has seven floors plus a mezzanine and basement) will be occupied by between 75 and 100 nonprofit groups. Jenkins said he also plans to place a jazz club in the building, which will be run by the Compass Institute.

"I hope for that to be a big component of our welfare-to-work programs. It will be a place where people can get hands-on experience in working in food service or hospitality, and then transfer that into the work force," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the Compass Institute is currently serving about 30 nonprofit groups as its clients. The company has developed welfare-to-work programs with such partners as the Missouri Division of Family Services and, most recently, the Small Business Administration, said the director of its Springfield office, James Combs.

Combs said the SBA is looking for service organizations that can help it place individuals who formerly received Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits in jobs with small businesses in the Springfield area.

For the initial phase of the Heer's building restoration, the Compass Institute will raise $4.3 million, the figure listed on its NAP project budget in its application.

"The $4.3 million will be to purchase the building and develop the common area. That should get us through the first phase of the project," Jenkins said.

According to its application, the group plans to raise $1 million in a capital campaign, $2.1 million through foundations, and $500,000 from federal grants. Exactly where that money will come from is not yet certain, Jenkins said.

He confirmed that a local capital campaign will begin this fall, and said that the money from that will be used on the building's exterior, "everything you see from the street."

"There are several large, private foundations we are in negotiations with, but we are not at the point of final determination and cannot disclose who those foundations are at this point," Jenkins said.

Similarly, the federal money is not yet fully secured, though Jenkins said "it could be well above the $500,000 mark if one of the deals we are looking at goes through."

Pledges of financial support from companies who are donating in-kind or in cash are also listed in the NAP application. Four companies are listed. One, Queen City Roofing, provided a cash donation of $25,000 when Compass was working on its north National location. That donation has already been accepted, and the company's money may be refunded, Jenkins said.

"What we would ideally like is for them to get a refund and then pledge the same amount after July 1 so they could receive the credits," Jenkins said.

Lawrence Stock, president of Queen City Roofing, said he had not had conversations with the Compass Institute in "quite some time."

Blevens Asphalt Construction, Mid-Continental Restoration and the Compass Financial Corporation were listed as donors, also, though the Compass Financial Corporation in-kind donation of $16,250 was removed because of a conflict of interest, said DED spokesman Jim Gardner.

The initial donation of Blevens was reduced to suit the new Heer's project, resulting in that donation's shrinking from $33,750 to $7,787.37. Queen City's cash donation was also removed from the mix, leaving only the Blevens donation and a $25,000 in-kind donation from Mid-Continental.

The Compass Institute's board of directors is now seven members strong, but the company has the potential of having up to 19 directors.

"Ultimately, we would like to run at 19 members," Jenkins said.

The latest list of board members, finalized in April, lists Jenkins; Charles Cribbs, director of the Epilepsy Association of the Ozarks; John Jamison, counselor with the Missouri Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; Sue Martin, director of catering at Holiday Inn University Plaza; Jay Nicholson, president and creative director of Nick & Rick & Co. advertising agency; Mike Phillips, of Robinett Business Systems; and Ronald Johnson, radio announcer with Sunburst Media.

Nicholson is working to direct an image campaign for the company while Martin will probably be involved in the banquet and jazz club, she said, applying her catering background. Phillips will be helping develop mailing services for the nonprofits. Jenkins said he hopes to provide a mailroom-type service for area groups.

Lance Brown, executive director of the Urban Districts Alliance, said he, like other center city advocates, would like to see the Heer's building filled.

"I would like to see a viable enterprise put into this building. If someone has a plan and the means to follow through with their intentions, then that's what we're looking for. This is a large-scale project that cannot be done overnight," Brown said.[[In-content Ad]]

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