Proposed demolition moratorium of Shakespeare’s pizza rejected

“We may or may not lose some historic property,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.
Photo of Shakespeare’s Pizza on Monday, April 27, 2015, located on Ninth Street. in Columbia, Mo. A moratorium on demolishing historic buildings downtown, which would have temporarily stopped the demolition of Shakespeare’s Pizza, was rejected by Columbia City Council.

A Columbia staple since 1973, Shakespeare’s Pizza, located at 225 S. Ninth St., will be demolished after May 31.

The decision comes after a April 20 City Council meeting in which a proposed demolition moratorium, which would prevent demolition of large areas of downtown Columbia for six months, was rejected 5-2.

“I thought it was reasonable to take some time to discuss some of the larger issues and to discuss historical preservation, especially in light of us reviewing and rewriting our rezoning code, something that we have spent several hundred thousand dollars on and which we have not reviewed since it was first established,” Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said. “There has been a great deal of interest in historic preservation and I thought that this moratorium would be a great way to do that, but the rest of City Council disagreed.”

The moratorium would have provided City Council with an opportunity to talk about preservation without any further action taking place. Now, without this legislative measure, Skala said he is unsure of the future of downtown.

“We may or may not lose some historic property,” he said.

Following the end of its lease, the pizzeria plans to relocate its operations one block west to the former home of BBCII on South Eighth Street for one year. The relocation will last until the multi-story, mixed-use building intended for the current Shakespeare’s location is completed. It’s projected to be done by summer 2016.

This development is set to be the work of McAlester Park LLC, and, presently, no renderings or other design details have been released. However, the company said it plans to follow the Downtown Community Improvement Districts building design guidelines closely.

As an organization, CID works to protect the District, or the downtown area bounded by a total of three colleges and encompassing 50 square blocks. Working in conjunction with CID’s guidelines for development will uphold and create an “authentic, dense and sustainable urban space,” “encourage a centrally located, live/work/play neighborhood,” “cultivate a creative and innovative culture of diverse enterprises” and “maintain the local and eclectic flavor of the area,” according to the CID website.

Though Shakespeare’s is valued by Columbia residents, it is subject to the ever-increasing change and growth of the city’s downtown. Getting his start at the iconic restaurant in 1978, Kurt Mirtsching has served as acting manager of Shakespeare’s since the early ’80s, and while he recognizes the value of nostalgia, he is confident that the restaurant, its customers and its employees will be able to handle the change.

“When we move to Eighth Street, it will be a bit of a change, but hopefully people will see our great big sign and come on over,” Mirtsching said. “When we move back to the new place on Ninth Street, what we’ve always done, what we’re doing, is throwing a party — and the party has much more to do with the people who throw it, the employees, the customers and the pizza than the space itself. The box that we have been in is going to change, but that’s just the box.”

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