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City debates funding for Livestock Exchange Building

The Livestock Exchange Building in St. Joseph has stood as a monument to the city's historic past for 120 years.

Posted: May 14, 2019 6:13 PM
Updated: May 15, 2019 9:16 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) The Livestock Exchange Building in St. Joseph has stood as a monument to the city's historic past for 120 years.

The building, first built in 1899, has been sitting dormant since 2005. It's now in the hands of the non-profit group Friends of St. Joseph who have been actively trying to revitalize the building. 

 "Already we've put about a quarter of a million dollars into the building - into securing it, into getting a hold of the building from the previous ownership group, getting the building cleaned out, getting it secured, the fence, all of that," Kim Schutte, CEO of Friends of St. Joseph, said.

The group recently went before city council where they asked for $100,000 to help stabilize the rest of the structure. However, they were met with some hesitation by council members.

"When the projects are so high as this one is we like to see and make sure that, you know, whoever is bringing this to us has got a little skin in the game," Kent O'Dell, deputy mayor, said. 

O'Dell said the city wants to help in any way they can, but that they need to know there are other investors and money being put into the building by other sources.

Mayor Bill McMurray echoed that statement, adding that once there is proof of other funding and plans for the structure's future, the topic of city funding can be revisited. 

"We really need to have some more information before we can determine how much - if any," McMurray said. "I support the restoration of that building."

To get the rest of the building stabilized will actually cost closer to $300,000, according to Schutte. She also said the $100,000 they asked city council for was a stretch, and the city's response wasn't entirely unexpected.

"I'm not surprised, I mean I feel like we need to ask," Schutte said, "The building is important for this city and I think it's important that the city show some support to the building."

As for funding from private investors, Schutte said they have had money come in from other sources. The group will also begin working with Southside Development on bringing the project in on their southside junction plan. 

"To do a project of this caliber, it takes a lot of accountants and lawyers and all of that, so that's all going on that nobody in the public sees," Schutte said. "When you drive by, you don't see those plans that are being put together but that's all happening as well."

O'Dell compared the Livestock Building to the Cracker House, which is currently being demolished after years of fundraising efforts for restoration. 

"We've invested into a lot of projects and have been very wary of investing into a dead end because the city doesn't have money to lose by any means," O'Dell said. 

Schutte said she was sad to see the Cracker House go, but that it goes to show what happens to buildings that don't get the proper care and funding they need.

"St. Joe's biggest asset really is its history. Tourism is the number two business in town, you know, people come here because of buildings like this and because of our historic structures," Schutte said.

There are only four remaining Exchange buildings in the nation, with St. Joseph's being the oldest. 

If you are interested in donating to the Livestock Exchange Building, contact the Friends of St. Joseph.

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