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MINDING THE MANOR: Wayne and Susan Rader’s plans for a former elderly women’s home include a bed-and-breakfast complete with limo service.
MINDING THE MANOR: Wayne and Susan Rader’s plans for a former elderly women’s home include a bed-and-breakfast complete with limo service.

Remaking History: Higher-end living checks in to Grant Beach

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People love living in history, and a walk through Springfield proves it.

Sterling Hotel. Palace Hotel Lofts. The Walnut Street Inn.

The names are downtown, but the concepts are universal, and two Springfield businessmen are transplanting new ideas to old structures in the Grant Beach area.

The paint cans are cracked at 924 N. Main Ave., soon to be known as Rader Manor, where Wayne and Susan Rader plan some $250,000-$500,000 in renovations for a bed-and-breakfast at the 130-year-old property.

“Everyone starting a business always worries, ‘Am I going to make it, or how is this going to go?’” said Wayne Rader of Rader Properties and former owner of The Window Dudes LLC installation service. “This is the least of my worries. We’re going to do a really fancy, nice job.”

That’s when he mentions the fountain being shipped from Italy and the two limousines he’ll operate for B&B guests. Another planned revenue source is wedding and event rentals of the 15,000-square-foot property and grounds.

East of Rader Manor’s backyard, another development is pending renovations. Springfield Loft Apartments LLC owner Jason Murray plans to convert the former Bailey alternative high school, 501 W. Central St., into a $2 million loft complex.

After the Springfield Public Schools’ board selected his $300,000 bid in February, Murray and Steve Deckard of Keystone Architects have carved out 25 units in the building he’ll call Bailey Lofts.

He plans few changes for the one- and two-bedroom lofts, leaving chalkboards up and installing new but historically accurate windows.

“We’ve come up with some neat floor plans to retain a lot of the original features with minimal changes,” Murray said. “The building has so much character, and we want to incorporate that into the units.”

Lofty ideas
Murray said his contract on Bailey is contingent with the property – constructed in the 1930s – being listed on the National Register of Historic Places through the National Park Service. As of receiving state-level approval on Aug. 19, Murray said he’d officially close on the property once it’s been voted in at the federal level during an early November meeting.

There’s another group looking forward to Rader and Murray’s buildings opening for business – the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association.

“They will bring new people into the neighborhood and we’re hoping to get some members out of that,” said President Anita Kuhns, noting the group currently has 100 members. “New, safe housing is always great, and we didn’t want it left empty as long as Fairbanks was left empty.”

The former Fairbanks elementary school was vacant for nearly eight years before husband-and-wife team Drew Lewis and Amy Blansit purchased the building and began renovations in 2013. It now serves as a community center for a variety of programs from organizations including Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Missouri State University and the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association.

Murray’s lofts weren’t the only ideas being floated for the Bailey building. Grant Beach neighbors learned Burrell Behavioral Health was interested in opening a facility, and Kuhns said people became worried when proposed plans kept changing.

“They said they’d have a job center there and job training. At one point, they told us they wanted to do a type of detox program there,” Kuhns said. “I don’t think they really knew what they wanted to do. They couldn’t give us a straight answer.”

Similarly, Rader said he was hesitant to advance the manor plans if Burrell moved into the neighborhood. When Rader and Murray first made contact to discuss their developments, there was mutual relief. But they’re not without risk, stemming from poverty and crime in the area. In the last month, the Springfield Police Department reports 47 incidents in the Grant Beach neighborhood, according to a search on crime analytics tool RaidsOnline.com.

“Both properties being renovated and cleaned up is one of the best things for the area,” Murray said.

New life
Kuhns said for the association members, the concern related to a potential Burrell location was neighborhood safety.

“Everyone has the ‘not in my neighborhood’ philosophy when it comes to homeless and mental health facilities – they want it somewhere else. In Grant Beach, we feel like we’ve been taking care of that,” she said, referencing Springfield Victory Mission’s homeless shelter and Midtown Recovery Ministries in addition to poverty prevention and awareness programs at Fairbanks, where churches have begun meeting, too.

As for the new developments, she said those bring hope that other vacant properties – such as the two-year vacant Wommack Foods Inc. grocery store at 1130 N. Grant Ave. – could see new life.

For Murray, Bailey Lofts will be No. 12 on his list of historic buildings-turned-loft living renovations that include the Palace Hotel, Union Biscuit Warehouse and Stove Works.

The manor isn’t Rader’s only attempt at sprucing up the neighborhood. He also purchased the residence directly north for a guesthouse to the B&B, a lot across the street that he’ll keep undeveloped and he’s working to purchase the residence south of the B&B at 912 N. Main Ave.

Inside the B&B, he’s taking a similar approach as Murray, cleaning and refurbishing the historic elements while performing as little demolition as possible. Chris Blackard of Blackard Architecture designed the project expected to be complete in the spring, and the general contractor is Green Engineering LLC.

“I thought it was going to be a lot worse than what it is, but it’s in great shape,” Rader said, noting the property was vacant for three years after the most recent business, the Mary E. Wilson Home for Aged Women, shuttered.

Rader’s still developing his B&B pricing model.

While Murray has yet to hire a Bailey Lofts general contractor, he has two more properties in his queue: student lofts in the 500 block of East Cherry Street and the former C&C Floor Covering building at 524 W. College St. He purchased the 30,000-square-foot building two weeks ago, and while it has the potential to be another Bailey Lofts, Murray isn’t rushing to pin down his concept.

“That’s more of a long-term project,” Murray said. “We have to get Bailey done first and another project closer to campus, then we’ll see how the downtown rental property market is doing at the time.”

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