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The Niedermeyer Building spared demolition

MU math professor Nakhle Asmar is in negotiations to buy the building.

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MU math professor Nakhle Asmar is negotiating purchasing the Niedermeyer apartment building. The building is the oldest house in downtown Columbia, and it will continue to be an affordable apartment building under Asmar's ownership.

Jill Deutsch/Photographer

March 15, 2013

The Niedermeyer Apartments needed a knight in shining armor, and it found one in MU math professor Nakhle Asmar on Tuesday.

As of December 2012, the St. Louis-based Collegiate Housing Partners planned to purchase and demolish the Niedermeyer Apartments to create a 15-story student housing apartment complex in its place.

On Tuesday, Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid announced that a private buyer would be purchasing the Niedermeyer Apartments and saving it from demolition. The buyer was later revealed as Asmar.

“This agreement ensures this historic structure, the Niedermeyer, will lie in stable and nurturing hands for years to come,” McDavid said.

Asmar said he wants the building to remain an affordable, convenient housing option.

“It’s a great building with a great history, great location and great potential,” Asmar said. “I am just hoping we’ll be able to turn it around and keep it available for housing as an alternative to the more expensive housing being built downtown.”

Brandt Stiles, the director of development for the Collegiate Housing Partners, said the company is looking into a new location to build "grade-A" student housing.

“This is a multi-party agreement that represents our respect for Columbia’s heritage,” McDavid said. “… The agreement will not only preserve the history of Columbia but protect its future as well.”

Columbia residents voiced their concern over the potential demolition of the Niedermeyer when its possible demolition was announced.

MU architecture student Amy Hotchkiss created a “Save the Niedermeyer Building” Facebook page. A petition against the demolition received 1,700 resident signatures.

Sixth Ward City Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe attempted to pass moratorium on downtown demolitions through City Council, which did not pass. The Columbia Historic Preservation Commission tried to find other people to buy the building.

All the publicity caught Asmar’s attention when he read about the building in newspaper articles.

“There has been so much written about the building recently,” he said. “You hear names like Mary Todd Lincoln, names like Mark Twain and the University of Missouri — all of these names, this history attached to the building.”

Then he decided to go and look at the building.

“There are so many charming things about the building — there’s even a little cat in the window,” he said.

Asmar then became involved in negotiations with the Collegiate Housing Partners and Hinshaw.

“It was a prime location for what they wanted to do with Columbia, so, for a long time, they were not willing to give it up,” Asmar said.

After the city found alternative sites for the Collegiate Housing Partners to build a housing complex — which Stiles said won't be 15 stories — Asmar became the buyer of the building.

Asmar said he will take over ownership sometime in April.

Excluding some small renovations to increase the quality of the house, Asmar said he plans to keep it the same: an apartment building for 30 to 40 people, and a historic home for the city.

Patrick Earney, a member of the Columbia Historic Preservation Commission, said he was elated by the news.

“I’m really excited he’s going to keep it affordable housing,” Earney said. “He seems really genuine and there’s no ill blood there. He just read it in the news so he decided to do something about it, and he was able.”

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