School, hotel compete for state offices

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

A Jefferson City developer's plan to renovate Louis J. Schultz School and lease office space to the state of Missouri must compete with another builder's proposal to do the same thing with the vacant Marquette Hotel.

The ultimate decision rests with state government's facilities management division, which is requesting new bids from nine bidders to provide state office space in Cape Girardeau.

The rebidding was announced late last month after Gov. Bob Holden issued an executive order that the state lease space in central downtown business districts, preferably in historic buildings.

The state wants to lease 22,834 square feet of space for the Department of Social Services and other agencies for the next 10 years. A decision could come by April, state officials said.

Ray Bax of RMB Inc.'s Bax Construction has offered to buy the brick school for $2 million and renovate it for office space.

Bax last year proposed building new office space in Cape Girardeau for state offices, but changed his plans after Holden issued his executive order.

Prost Builders of Jefferson City proposed last year renovating the 73-year-old hotel and leasing some of the space to the state.

The hotel is owned by Ruby Bullock, whose financial affairs are now being handled by her daughter, Carol Bullock of Rockville, Md. Carol Bullock said Tuesday that she has agreed to sell the building to Prost Builders contingent upon the state leasing space in the structure.

Carol Bullock wouldn't disclose the purchase price.

She said she hasn't received a dime yet. If Prost Builders doesn't get the state contract, the deal will be canceled, Bullock said.

Still, she remains confident that Prost Builders can convince the state to lease space in the hotel regardless of Bax's plans.

Bax's contract for the school building is contingent upon an engineering study being made at the developer's expense to determine if the structure can feasibly be renovated to meet state safety requirements, particularly seismic regulations.

Bax's local real estate agent, Kerry Johnson, said the building appears to be in good condition.

The preliminary agreement with the school district stipulates that the engineering study will be completed by March 30 to allow time to close out the contract by July 31. The district plans to move out of the school building this summer.

The building was built in 1914 and expanded in 1920 and 1941. It was renovated in 1965.

Bax said he wants to know if the building can be renovated at a reasonable cost to meet necessary requirements to protect it from potential New Madrid Fault earthquakes.

"I think that building has a lot of potential," said Bax, who estimates his firm has handled 60 to 70 office construction projects for the state of Missouri.

He said he looked at buying and renovating the Marquette Hotel or the nearby H&H Building, both on Broadway, but felt that neither had enough off-street parking.

In contrast, the school's playground offers room for plenty of parking. "We are looking at 300 to 350 parking spaces," Bax said.

As part of renovations, Johnson said, the building would be gutted and then new interior walls would be built. Renovations would include new wiring, plumbing, security and sprinkler systems.

'One of its charms'

The school's brick exterior would remain. "To everyone, it will look like a school building, which is one of its charms," said Johnson.

Johnson said Bax may spend millions of dollars on renovations at the three-acre site on Pacific Street.

Johnson said the old school has over 80,000 square feet spread through four levels, including an attic. The attic probably isn't usable except for storage. That still leaves about 70,000 square feet of office space, he said.

Bax said the old school would be more suitable for state offices than the Marquette Hotel. "I think I have a better location and a better site. I feel confident we will get the state contract," he said.

But Bax said the purchase of the school isn't contingent on whether the state accepts his bid. Bax has yet to submit the bid.

Carl Greeson, assistant director of Missouri's facilities management division, said the state has worked with both Bax and Prost on numerous projects. Both are good developers, he said.

335-6611, extension 123

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