St. Louis entrepreneur Jim Osher grew up in the building industry, but he’s recently been bitten by the shoe bug.
Other owns the former Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory building at 1516 N. Jefferson Ave., where he runs his wholesale buildings materials business and has his personal residence. He is on a mission to save the building, which has been targeted for demolition by the city to make way for the new home of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
The four-story, 85,000-sq.-ft. brick building was built in 1901 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While eminent domain laws allow it to be knocked down to make way for the new government building, Osher has some loftier plans in mind.
Osher would like to have the iconic structure moved to the other side of the street and turn it into a footwear-themed hotel. In addition, the building would house restaurants and outdoor complexes for music as well as a brewery, modeled after a similar enterprise in Lynchburg, Va., called the Craddock Terry Hotel, which is housed in part in a former Craddock Terry Shoe Co. building built in 1905.
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The chief architect for the Craddock Terry venture was Hal Craddock, great-grandson of the company’s founder. Shoes are a key part of the atmosphere, with such touches as breakfast served in an old-fashioned wooden shoeshine box as well as historical artifacts.
So far, Osher has commissioned plans for his venture from a St. Louis-based architect, although negotiations with the city are still underway.
But a hotel is just one idea Osher has in mind for the building. He also believes with America’s rich footwear heritage, the industry should get together to establish a shoe museum. Any industry insiders who would like to get involved with the museum project can contact Osher.