Springfield, MO

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Now a boarded up vacant building, Heer's was once a thriving retail store downtown.
Now a boarded up vacant building, Heer's was once a thriving retail store downtown.

No. 13 Heer's end

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Time and fate turned the once-booming seven-story Heer’s department store into the building seen today with its boarded windows and crumbling façade.

Heer’s Co. was founded in 1869 when Charles Heer built a small store off Park Central Square on Boonville Avenue. After a fire destroyed the store in 1913, a new building was built in its current location at 138 Park Central Square with steel and terra cotta and reinforced with concrete. The new building opened in September 1915 with 21,000 people streaming through the store that day.

In 1940, Heer’s was purchased by Allied Stores of New York and received major renovations such as air conditioning and escalators. More renovations were done in 1969 to make it look more like major department stores in other big cities and a new Heer’s store was opened in Battlefield Mall in 1976. After various owners, the 1990s brought bankruptcy to the department store, and Heer’s closed in 1995.

Since closing, the building changed hands many times, each purchase bringing an announcement of restoration and new life to one of the city’s most visible landmarks. In 2001, then-owner Warren Davis began restoring the building’s exterior, planning restaurants, shops and office space. By 2006, it landed in the city’s lap after another developer, Jefferson City-based Vaughn Prost, relinquished control.

St. Louis developer Kevin McGowan, president and CEO of Blue Urban LLC, bought the building from the city for $3 million in November 2007 with plans to build upscale condominiums above a restaurant. The recession stalled funding on the project and left McGowan scrambling to come up with a new plan. The new strategy includes a Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood restaurant as an anchor and 61 apartments.
The developer is working on putting together financing, which he expects to be backed by U.S. Housing and Urban Development.

Until McGowan’s plans come to fruition, the building still stands empty, a ghost to its former glory.

See the full list of pivotal points chosen by the Springfield Business Journal here.
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