Newman Brothers Building

Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri

Formerly known as the Newman Brothers Building is now Joplin City Hall.

Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri
Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri – Picture owned by Marty Smith – Use of picture strictly prohibited without permission – Picture was taken Nov. 27, 2020

Newman Brothers Building is located in the downtown area of Joplin, Missouri.  It is located at 602 S Main St, Joplin, MO 64801.  Currently, it is the Joplin City Hall.  As politics goes, the entity that fought multiple owners to demolish the building now occupies the building.

This content is the most reliable content that exists regarding the Newman Brothers Building.  The information has been obtained and written by one of the developers, Martin Smith.  The timeline will record the chain of events with supporting documentation when available.

The idea to purchase the building in 1995 came during a dinner between Gregory Fears and Martin Smith.  One evening Fears/Smith had dinner at Club 609.  The table looked out at Main Street, which included the Newman Building.  The view was the Newman Brothers Building.  At that time, there was a discussion around Joplin that the city was interested in tearing down the building, claiming it unsafe and beyond repair.

Smith knew this was not correct.  He knew the building was structurally solid but knew it was unsafe due to a lack of proper maintenance.  The building was constructed of concrete and brick.  It had been abandoned and owned by investors that lacked the funds and community support to restore the building.  The entire community failed to deal with the issue. The whole downtown area had died with only a few retail stores and offices.  There were many buildings downtown that was vacant and neglected, and the city’s best approach was to demolish the building?  The community had previously demolition the Conner Hotel, which probably could have been saved as well.

In total, Fears/Smith is directly responsible for renovating six downtown properties that lead to the revitalization of the historic downtown area.  In fact, Smith and his family lived on the second floor, 5th, and Main, in a renovated apartment.

Fears/Smith offices were located in the first Newman’s Department store, located at 517 Main Street, which the building on each side of 517 Main, 515 Main Street, and 519 Main Street was renovated as well.  The building at 515 Main Street was intended to be a financial museum, and 519 Main was the IT facility for Fears/Smith financial firms.

Additionally, a building located at 520 Main Street was purchased by Fears/Smith to renovate.  However, another Joplin businessman, Mike Sitton, bought the building to renovate it for his wife to operate an interior design store.

Smith and Fears called a realtor friend during dinner at Club 609 to ask about the purchase price of the Newman Building.

After a lengthy discussion with the realtor, Fears and Smith purchased the building that same evening.  It was never intended to be an investment as much as a rescue operation.  The purchase price was estimated at $50,000.00. They were purchasing 63,000 square feet of solid concrete, brick, and steel for $50,000.  Yes, for less than $1 per square foot, they bought a significant part of Joplin history.

Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri
Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri – Picture owned by Marty Smith – Picture was taken on Nov. 27, 2020 – Use without permission strictly prohibited.

After several months of renovations, the cost came to slightly less than $5 million.  Assuming the $5 million spread out over 63,000 square feet, the renovations came to an estimate of $79.50 per square foot.  The only items that went unfinished were the office areas, which needed dividing walls and flooring installed, which Fears/Smith was leaving open to buyers or tenants.  Considering the fill-in cost, the building should have come in at an estimated $100 to $130 per square foot.  Despite public criticism about the cost, it became a prudent investment and was the better option than demolishing the building.

Months later, the critics surfaced, claiming that the renovation cost was unreasonable and even considered by some to be lavish.  However, many of those same critics were involved in significant pressure for the city to occupy the building.  Smith had denied showing interest in leasing or selling the building to the city, stating that he felt that the building deserved something better.

Smiths’ reply was not intended to be arrogant or insensitive, but it was as such, which offended some local politicians.

Towards the end of the renovation, Fears/Smith had a tenant interested in occupying the building.  The prospective tenant was Blue Cross that wanted to open a claims-paying processing facility in that area.  The offer was presented to Fears/Smith through LaSalle Partners in Chicago, Illinois.

One of the stipulations was that Fears/Smith needed to guarantee Blue Cross employees 300 parking spots. However, city officials told Smith that it would not be a problem because they would “work it out.”

Fears/Smith had 30-days to respond to the offer.

Needless to say, Blue Cross did not lease the facility, which would have provided more than 300 jobs with an average pay of $40,000 per year.  That was a high wage for the area at that time.

The city had failed to provide Fears/Smith with the solutions to “work it out.”  The city did offer a contract to lease the empty parking lot owned by the city located directly behind the building at unreasonable rates. In addition, the city wanted the right to restrict parking because it was occasionally used for overflow parking from the Memorial Hall traffic. However, the terms of the parking lot lease were not structured to “work it out.”

During the renovation phase of the building, the city had committed to help provide the concrete to restore the sidewalks on the east and north side of the building.  Fears/Smith did not request this support from the city. Instead, the city offered to help ensure that the building would be renovated as Fears/Smith had promised the community.

As Smith approached the city officials, they responded by saying they could not provide the concrete and parking solution.  They asked Smith to pick which was most necessary.  Obviously, Smith chose the parking solution to help secure the lease to Blue Cross, which was an intentional attempt not to help either matter because the political agenda had changed.

The building was first sold to a local trucking company, HookUp, owned by Mike Riggs.  However, they failed to pay the property taxes on the building.  Therefore, legal proceedings began.  Riggs had gone on record stating that the taxes were not paid due to questions about the building title.  Proper title was transferred to HookUp.  They simply could not afford the building, which was a concern in the beginning as Fears/Smith financed the building for HookUp.  The end result was no surprise to the sellers.

The Newman Brothers Building Timeline:

  • 1898 – Joseph Newman purchased the land
  • 1910 – Newman’s Department Store opened on November 16th and was the first building in Joplin to have elevators and electricity
  • 1972 – Newman’s Department Store moved to Northpark Mall
  • 1989 – owner Kenny Cox operated a teen club fighting the city who wanted to demolish the building
  • 1995 – January 27th, The Joplin Globe published an article titled “Newman Building changes hands,” by Debby Woodin
  • 1995 – September 5th, The Joplin Globe published an article titled “Building renovations placed at $545,000” by Jim Suhr
  • 1995 – Building was purchased by Greg Fears and Martin Smith, and renovation began costing an estimated $5 million – General Contractor was Kenneth Guy Sipe – Ron Richard was the Joplin Mayor
  • 1996 – October 2nd Fundraiser held by Main Street Joplin, Inc. and the Joplin Historical Society
  • 2003 – the City of Joplin purchased the building and made minor renovations costing an estimated $3 million – oddly occupying the building they fought to demolish multiple times
  • 2005 – March 20th, the building was rededicated as the Joplin City Hall

The land the building seats on was purchased in 1898 by Joseph Newman to expand his retail business.

Nearing the end of the renovation, Fears/Smith had interest from Blue Cross and Blue Shield to occupy the facility for a claims processing facility, occupying up to 300 residents with an average wage of $35,000 or more.

Fears/Smith sold the building to Mike Riggs, owner of Hookup.  However, Riggs failed to pay the real estate on the building, regardless of what has been said or represented.

Newman Brothers Building, Joplin, Missouri

This page is a work in progress.

Project Parties:

  1. Renovation General Contractor: Kenneth Guy Sipe (February 13, 1925, to November 28, 2011)
  2. Design – Engineering – Ron Jones, McElwee Associates & JMH Construction – a copy of permission to publish blueprints provided in References
  3. Developers – Greg Fears & Martin Smith
  4. Legal Advisors – Myers, Taylor & Whitworth (David & Paul Taylor)
  5. Finance: Chase Foundation – foundation directors, David & Paul Taylor (also served as legal advisors)
  6. Tax Advisor – Mayor Hoffman McCann (Barb Plattner)

Missouri Political Environment in 1995:

  1. Missouri GovernorMel Carnahan (Democrat) – January 11, 1993, to October 16, 2000
  2. Missouri Attorney General – Jay Nixon (Democrat) – 1993 to 2009
  3. Joplin City Mayor – Ron Richard (Republican) 1994 to 1997

References: proprietary documents or information cannot be used without the permission of Martin Smith

  1. Book – created by Ken Sip, General Contractor
  2. Newman Building Post Card – Found and bought it on eBay in December 2020
  3. Newman Building – documents found under hardwood floors found when removing floors
  4. Newman Building BP Permission to Use BP – permission to publish the blueprints was provided by Ron Jones with McElwee Associates.
  5. Newman Building Realtor Flyer PDF – Original print copy provided to Martin Smith by Cohen-Esrey
  6. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form – dated, November 7, 1989 – form prepared by Thomason and Associates, Nashville, TX
  7. – picture of Rededicated plaque
  8. Newman Building BP Front Outside
  9. Newman Building BP Basement
  10. Newman Building BP Main Floor
  11. Newman Building BP Mezzanine Floor Plan
  12. Newman Building BP 2nd and Mezzanine Floor Plan
  13. Newman Building BP 3rd Floor
  14. Newman Building BP 3rd and 4th Floor 4
  15. Newman Building BP 3rd and 4th Floor 5
  16. Newman Building BP 5th Floor
  17. Newman Building BP 5th Floor Alternate Details and Window Section
  18. Newman Building BP Windows 2
  19. Newman Building BP Windows 3
  20. Newman Building BP Windows

Wikipedia References:

  1. Wikipedia – Newman Brothers Building
  2. Wikipedia – Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C.

Internal Links:

NOTE: This page was published on June 3, 2021, and will continue to be revised.