My Day with the Developer (Springfield Business Journal Reporter's Blog)

Matt E. Miller and Tera Vera investor Sam M. Coryell visit the development before reviewing new exterior-siding color samples for the 31-unit senior living community.

Matt E. Miller and Tera Vera investor Sam M. Coryell visit the development before reviewing new exterior-siding color samples for the 31-unit senior living community.

Zach Smith, Reporter
6/10/2016 11:06 AM

Although he’s been up since well before dawn, when Matt E. Miller arrives in his office to begin his day, he’s ready to get to work.

Dressed casually in jeans and a black dress shirt, the developer says he likes to ease into his day with journaling, reading (right now it’s actor David Duchovny’s new novel) and walking his dogs (a Newfoundland and a “lazy” sheep dog). But on Tuesdays and Thursdays – the “office” days – when he enters Miller Commerce’s headquarters in Wilhoit Plaza, he’s all business.

“It looks like an intervention, doesn’t it?” Matt jokes as we join the office staff for a team huddle.

Despite his levity, there is at least some truth in that it does feel like a gathering of family or friends. Going around the circle in no particular order, each staff member updates Matt on what he or she will be working on this week – no less than six projects are in various stages of progress – and what they plan to do over the Memorial Day weekend.

Matt, who sometimes bikes to work and hits up the downtown YMCA gym most mornings, says he is trying to get some family and friends together for a trip to Dogwood Canyon. Later that morning, I’ll get an inkling of just how active Matt really is.

As the huddle wraps and a conference call with a lawyer representing Miller Commerce on a project concludes, Matt and Vice President of New Development Steve Stinnett head across town, a three-man SBJ news team in tow. With two cameras on him for the duration of our walk to Bates & Associates, he draws more than a few prolonged glances, always met with a greeting and a smile.

Although the Birch Pointe meeting at Bates with architect Phil Young is short – Reliance Health Care Inc. Director of Development Wes Holland won’t be making his flight in due to increasingly inclement weather – it does offer a small modicum of amusement. Matt has to cease his introductions of SBJ and Bates staff in order to take a call from yet a fourth SBJ staffer – reporter Brian Brown – to talk about the senior living development for the Daily Update e-newsletter.

For me, it’s an interesting meta moment in journalism, being in the middle of my own story and someone else’s – particularly since I usually hear Brian’s half of the interviews while I’m in the office but have never before been privy to the other side of the conversation.

On the walk back, Matt mentions how he got started in the business at age 19, buying a house on Brower Street for $11,000, and flipping it for $27,000. He estimates with a laugh that he maybe made a grand total of $300 in the end, but it was a start. Since starting Miller Commerce in 2002, he’s seen downtown grow at an incredible rate and attract more people into center city, spurring further development.

“You have this influx of young people, but we still have this element of the young professional,” Matt says. “You’ve got BKD and Marlin, as just a couple of good-size firms, that try to retain this talent. Quality housing options are a big part of that.”

The generally unpleasant weather blanketing Springfield the week of my Day in the Life boiled to a froth that Tuesday, erupting in brief but torrential rain and hail around noon. Waiting at the site of the gated senior living community Tera Vera for investor Sam M. Coryell to go over some siding color samples, Matt muses he was going to ask SBJ photographer Wes Hamilton and I along on a mountain biking jag through Two Rivers Mountain Bike Park that afternoon, but the rapidly darkening sky bears ill portent for that.

As subtly as possible, I breathe a sigh that’s half disappointment and half relief. Disappointment, as this scenario easily would have made for a great addition to the article, and relief that I won’t have to embarrass myself in front of my source or colleague by either a) falling hopelessly behind someone who mountain bikes three or four days a week in good weather or b) caroming off of a rock somewhere in the woods.

When Sam shows up, he admits he had his own trepidations about taking two wheels off-road for the first time since childhood, but Matt gave him the needed encouragement.

“He said, ‘Look, the only thing that ruins mountain biking is when someone gets hurt, so have fun,’” Sam recounts. “’If you want to walk it, don’t worry, that’s fine.’ So I did. There was a lot of walking.”

“Walk today, ride tomorrow,” Matt adds with a grin.

Showing off some samples of colored exterior siding, he jokes with project manager Colleen Hargis about forgetting to bring a rendering mockup because he and Steve changed the day’s schedule between Bates, Miller Commerce and Tera Vera, picking her up at the last second before the jaunt south down Jefferson Avenue.

“Matt likes to give people crap,” she retorts good-naturedly.

“You can quote that,” Sam says to me. “That needs to be in there somewhere.”

While the glance at color samples is a quick meeting, it’s also crucial. While Sam is acting only as an investor and owner in Tera Vera, Matt likes to make the partners aware of any changes or updates in the plan and he says Sam’s knowledge is an asset to the project.

“His experiences are different than mine; there’s real value to that,” Matt adds. “If he sees something and says, ‘Let’s not do that because I experienced this,’ that’s a huge win and I want to leverage that as much as I can.”

In the course of the day, I came to a swift (and perhaps to others, obvious) conclusion that it takes a certain type of mind to think like a developer – and I certainly don’t have it. Take the Tera Vera property: Living only a few blocks away from the rapidly progressing development, I drove by the area almost every day for close to two years. All I saw was an empty patch of ground behind a residential neighborhood. Matt saw an opportunity.

Senior living isn’t the only bright spot on Matt’s future horizon, as becomes evident during his afternoon at the office.

During a brief call with Care to Learn Executive Director Linda Ramey-Greiwe about the organization’s upcoming Panther Run event, Matt – who also sits on the nonprofit’s board – considers how he can help drum up student participants and volunteers. With roughly 200-300 bedrooms downtown and another 320 in student housing, he thinks can help create some buzz.

Later, when Matt meets with Affiniti Management Services Inc. President Lonnie Funk and Vice President of Operations Brad Danzak, the student-housing buzz brings good news. Leasing is 25 percent up over last year at the same time with referrals and cross-marketing efforts driving the increase. Some rooms seem to market themselves, and Brad notes three-bedroom units aren’t open more than a week.

Lonnie doesn’t think the market has felt the full impact from the expanding Bear Village or towering Aspen complexes, but if there’s any concern about competition, Matt and the Affiniti crew don’t show it.

“This is the skirmish before the battle that’s yet to come,” Lonnie says of the competition in the market. “We’re going to win this one – location gives us a competitive edge – but we’re looking forward to next fall.”

Although well-defined niche markets for loft-lookers, students and seniors are Matt’s specialties. A specific project bubbles to the surface constantly during my day with Matt: So El District Lofts.

At different points throughout the day, Lonnie, Steve and Matt refer to the building’s hybrid nature, what he later describes as being not quite downtown loft living and not quite student housing. In the geographic middle ground between the heart of the Queen City and Missouri State University, he’s more eager than anyone for the Aug. 1 opening date in order to see what the building turns into once the most important element is added: people.

While the properties need tenants – residential or commercial – to be profitable ventures, there’s another side to Matt’s outlook in his role as developer. Miller Commerce, along with its partners and the architects and contractors who bring the buildings to life, have to figure out what features other than four walls and a solid roof make people want to live there. That extends not only to the amenities of the rooms or properties, but also the surrounding areas.

“What speaks to me as a resident – what would I want for tomorrow? How do we incorporate what’s going on in the world?” Matt asks. “We move all these pieces, spend millions, look for great designs and put in years of hard work, but at the end of the day it gets down to the people who are living there and keeping them happy.”

Reporter’s Notebook
Below are some pictures taken by SBJ photographer Wes Hamilton that are representative of My Day in the Life with Matt. Many of my own pictures turned out a bit blurry, besides the photo at the top of this article.

Matt checks in with staff during a morning huddle in the entryway to Miller Commerce.

Steve, left, and Matt wrap up a conference call prior to the Birch Pointe meeting at Bates & Associates.

Steve and Matt review renderings presented by Phil of Bates & Associates for the planned $17 million Birch Pointe project.

Here’s one of three bedrooms in the Tera Vera model home. According to Steve, the homes were more than 90 percent complete at the time of Matt’s Day in the Life.

Matt’s travels adorn the walls of the Miller Commerce conference room.


Former Banta Foods President and CEO Chuck Banta catches up with Matt prior to an investor meeting.

Springfield Business Journal: “Day in the Life with Matt E. Miller”

Matt E. Miller walks through Tera Vera, a gated senior living community along Sunset Street.

Matt E. Miller walks through Tera Vera, a gated senior living community along Sunset Street.

Zach Smith, Reporter

6/6/2016 3:12 PM

Matt E. Miller is up early, but he likes to ease into his workday. Rising between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m., he starts the day with journaling, reading, exercising and walking the dogs – but never business.

“The first 15 minutes to hour that I am awake is chilled-out personal time,” Miller says. “I’ve got a strict rule with myself in the mornings that I don’t start in on email.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays are Miller’s office days, when Miller Commerce LLC employees can schedule him for meetings on various projects. At some point between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., he’ll touch on each of six projects the company has on the burners.

After a team huddle, where each staff member shares what they’re working on this week and what they’re planning for the Memorial Day weekend, Miller and Vice President of New Development Steve Stinnett chance darkening skies and hoof it west across downtown. The destination is Bates & Associates Inc. for a design update on Birch Pointe – the $17 million, 68,000-square-foot skilled nursing and rehabilitation facility Miller Commerce is developing in south Springfield.

Midway through greeting Bates & Associates architect Phil Young, Miller receives a call from Springfield Business Journal reporter Brian Brown for his developing story on Birch Pointe. Later that day, the journalistic process comes full circle when Chuck Banta, former head of Banta Foods Inc. and an investor with Miller, references the SBJ story.

Today’s weather means Wes Holland, director of development for Reliance Health Care Inc. – an administrative services provider managing the new facility – will not be flying in from Conway, Ark., leaving Miller, Stinnett and Young little to discuss other than timelines and renderings. The project is scheduled to begin turning dirt in June. On the way back to the office – past the first downtown property Miller owned at the southwest corner of South Avenue and Walnut Street – Miller mentions his humble beginnings in business at age 19 with an $11,000 house he flipped on Brower Street. The downtown purchase in the early 2000s resulted from what Miller saw as a national trend for urban redevelopment, historic tax credits and city support converging to create an economic opportunity.

“That’s how I got downtown, but the reason I stayed is it’s fun and cool and relevant,” he says. “You can’t ignore how many more people are living here in center city now than five years ago.”

But not all projects are downtown. Running along Sunset Street, gated senior living community Tera Vera is underway with a model home and clubhouse near completion. Soon, Miller says TLC Property Management LLC will set up an office and start leasing the 31 apartments.

Walking through the fully furnished, 1,576-square-foot model, Miller says he recently brought his parents by to see the progress and was pleased with their reaction.

“They’re the right demographic for us,” he says. “It made me feel good, not just from the personal side, but like, ‘We hit it here. We got the right sauce.’”

As with the student housing and urban redevelopment niches, Miller saw the opportunity in the senior living market. His developments, such as the 8-year-old The Fremont, are preludes to a national boom for baby boomers.

“You can see the age census data doing what it is – it’s coming,” Miller says. “We’re really starting to fire those engines up.”

TLC Executive Director Sam Coryell, who is investing as an individual in Tera Vera, stops by shortly before noon to review exterior siding color samples. With Reliance Health Care’s Holland absent, lunch plans are rearranged, and the two decide to chance the crowd and head to City Butcher since they’re on the south side.

An afternoon of meetings awaits Miller at the office. Affiniti Management Services Inc. President Lonnie Funk and Vice President of Operations Brad Danzak discuss the preleasing status for fall student housing. They have goods news: Leasing is at 85 percent, compared to 60 percent the same time last year.

Funk cites international students, in particular, driving leases through referrals, as well as Affiniti’s marketing efforts to make itself more visible on campus.

“Where we’re positioned going into the fall, even with all the competition, is good,” Funk says. “I feel confident about it.”

The conversation switches to So El District Lofts, taking shape east of the Wilhoit Plaza parking lot on Elm Street. Danzak points to loft-style living minus loft-style utility consumption as a key selling point for the scheduled Aug. 1 opening.

“We’re pushing the envelope a little bit with that. It’s not garden-style apartments or student housing. It’s a different philosophy than what we’ve ever done before,” Miller says, noting the location between campus and the heart of downtown allowed for a hybrid design.

“I think it will fill up with its own eclectic collection of tenants,” Funk adds. “Now, we just need the phone to ring.”

Residential Facility that Feels Like a Resort: Developer Plans $17M Project (Birch Pointe) - KY3 TV

By Mike Landis | 

Posted: Wed 10:42 PM, May 25, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. A vacant field on the city's south side will soon be home to a skilled care center of the future. Birch Point Health and Rehabilitation, a $17 million dollar project, is set to go up at the intersection of Primrose St. at Jefferson Avenue, across from Kickapoo High School.

Steve Stinnett, Vice President of New Development at Miller Commerce stated, "...we are excited entering into the senior housing development business."

Birch Point, which will be operated by Arkansas-based Reliance Healthcare, is being called the care facility for a new generation. Plans call for a center that looks more like a resort than a residential facility. There will be courtyards, a bistro cafe, WiFi. Living areas will be clustered into neighborhood-like sections. The center is being built on the five acres on the northeast side of the intersection on one of the last large undeveloped left in the city.

"We were very fortunate to acquire that site and Matt had a really good vision of what could go there with the proximity of Cox Hospital and Medical Mile," Stinnett said.

With hospitals and other healthcare services nearby, Birch Point is being building here on purpose. With 120 beds for short term and long-term care, the place will employ dozens of medical professionals.

Stinnett says the new project represents an industry that is showing no sign of slowing down.

"It is called the maturing of the baby boomers. It is a huge demographic that has been taking place the last five years and it will continue the next 15 to 20 years."

Ground is set to broken next month. Construction is anticipated to take 15 months.

$17M nursing center in the works near Kickapoo (Birch Pointe) - Springfield Business Journal

Residential developer Miller Commerce LLC is partnering with Arkansas-based Reliance Health Care to build a $17 million skilled nursing center.

Residential developer Miller Commerce LLC is partnering with Arkansas-based Reliance Health Care to build a $17 million skilled nursing center.

Brian Brown, Contributing Writer
5/24/2016 11:50 AM

The Medical Mile just got a little wider.

Springfield residential developer Miller Commerce LLC has partnered with an Arkansas-based health care provider to build a roughly $17 million, 120-bed skilled nursing and rehabilitation center just west of Kickapoo High School.

Dubbed Birch Pointe Health and Rehabilitation, the 68,000-square-foot complex is designed to offer short-term rehabilitation, long-term care and memory care. Each of the three services would be segmented into individual zones featuring their own dining areas, open spaces and courtyards, according to a news release from Miller Commerce. Amenities will include a bistro, wireless Internet and a salon.

Wes Holland, director of development for Conway, Ark.-based Reliance Health Care Inc., said the ownership group comprises Miller Commerce and principals from Reliance Health Care via Primrose Senior Living LLC. Reliance Health Care, an administrative-services provider with 38 locations across Arkansas, will manage the Springfield facility, Holland said. He said construction is expected to begin in late June and take about 12 months to finish.

The project will be built at the corner of South Avenue and East Primrose Street, directly across South Jefferson Avenue from Kickapoo High School and just blocks away from Cox South Hospital and several health facilities along the Medical Mile.

“Obviously, the location near the hospitals is certainly something that was attractive to us,” Holland said. “We are excited about the location and design of the building."

Matt E. Miller of Miller Commerce said the company jumped at the chance to buy the 5.4-acre lot for an undisclosed amount about a year ago from the Gillenwaters family with the development in mind.  According to the Greene County Assessor record, the 2016 taxable-appraised value of the property is $680,100.

“We knew we wanted to be in the licensed-care space on that site, we just didn’t know with whom or exactly what,” Miller said, adding he connected with Reliance Health Care through a consultant. “We feel like we are in very good hands on the operational side with those guys.”

Bates & Associates Inc. is the architect for the project, but Holland said a general contractor has not yet been named.

Known for its center city student-housing projects including The Jefferson, The Monroe and Deep Elm, Miller Commerce broke into senior-living development in recent years through The Fremont, at 1520 E. Bates St., and Terra Vera, a $7.5 million independent-living complex still under construction at 2715 S. Kimbrough Ave.

From the Ground Up: SoEL District Lofts - Springfield Business Journal

430 E. Elm St.

Brian Brown, Contributing Writer
4/25/2016 3:27 PM

Owner/Developer: So El District LLC
General contractor: Build LLC
Architect: Buxton Kubik Dodd Creative
Engineers: Lee Engineering and Associates LLC, civil; Pinnacle Design Consultants LLC; Pellham Phillips Architectural Engineering, mechanical, electrical and plumbing
Size: 32,600 square feet
Estimated cost: $5 million
Lender: The Bank of Missouri
Estimated completion: Aug. 1
Project description: Located near Missouri State University’s campus and south of Elm Street, the SoEL District Lofts is designed with 40 unfurnished units in studio and one-to-three-bedroom layouts. Melissa Young, a spokeswoman for developer Miller Commerce LLC, said the four-story building would serve demand for student housing and downtown loft living. The property also has a 600-square-foot commercial space available. Young said lease rates have not been set.

From the Ground Up: Tera Vera - Springfield Business Journal

2715 S. Kimbrough Ave.

Brian Brown, Contributing Writer
3/28/2016 2:04 PM

Owner/developer: Tera Vera LLC
General Contractor: Finley Construction LLC
Architect: H Design Group LLC
Engineers: Lee Engineering Inc., civil; Pinnacle Design Consultants LLC, structural; and Interpres Building Solutions LLC, mechanical, electrical and plumbing
Size: 44,272 square feet
Estimated cost: $7.5 million
Lender: Southern Bank
Estimated completion: Sept. 1
Project description: Developed by Miller Commerce LLC through Tera Vera LLC, this senior-living community is designed as an upscale option for tenants ages 55 and older, said Miller Commerce spokeswoman Melissa Young. With 31 residences mixed between two- and three-bedroom duplex floor plans, rents range from $2,095 to $2,745 for units up to 1,700 square feet. The residences include private attached garages and universal design, Young said. The complex also includes concierge services, a community clubhouse, private gated entry, onsite management by TLC Properties and a dog park. TLC Properties Marketing Director Chelsea Bunch said the Tera Vera office and model home is slated to open April 15. 

Inaugural Spin66 dishes entrepreneurial tips (Matt E. Miller) - Springfield Business Journal

From startup to selling to failures, the Springfield Innovation Summit covers all the bases

Brian Brown, Contributing Writer

Monday, May 12, 2014 9:29 AM

Springfield urologist Dr. Howard Follis says he didn't build his electronic medical records software firm, Intuitive Medical Software LLC, with the intention of selling. Follis is now developing a mobile EMR system for health care professionals.

Keela Davis: The Springfield area lacks venues for innovative business collaboration.
Matt E. Miller: Testing ideas through social media can help avoid failures.

The three things that might keep entrepreneurs awake the most at night: starting the next venture, selling the business or managing the failures.

The Springfield Innovation Summit, aka Spin66, covered all three and other topics during the May 5 half-day event at The eFactory downtown business incubator. Nearly 200 professionals attended the summit, organized by Mercy Research and Development, The eFactory and Create Springfield to mobilize and connect area business experts with entrepreneurs at various stages of business.

“We realized the Springfield area was limited in forums that would allow this type of group to come together and begin talking, learning and trying new things. That’s what today’s event is about,” said Mercy R&D Director Keela Davis as she welcomed attendees. “Whether it was ideas that were started on napkins at Springfield restaurants or perhaps on counters at Brown Derbys, entrepreneurialism is something this city is primed to do.”

Step 1: Startup
What is your risk tolerance?

Jeff Schrag, owner of Springfield brewery startup Mother’s Brewing Co. and veteran legal publication The Daily Events, said determining one’s tolerance to risk is a good place to start.

For Schrag, his risk factor emerged in the late 1990s, when he became nervous legal publications might be fading with the rise of the Internet. He started looking for his next business venture.

“The Mother’s idea was based on the notion that I was just young enough to gamble everything I have one more time,” Schrag said during a breakout session titled, “There is no boilerplate.”

While Schrag said Daily Events is still going strong filling its niche, his strategizing coupled with his tough skin ultimately advanced the brewery idea.  

He said the best advice for young entrepreneurs is to be flexible about where and how profits are generated.

Schrag said he recently read a story about a couple selling emu oil that demonstrates the value of flexibility. In the ’90s, they bought emus to breed before the bottom fell out of the fledgling industry. The demand for emus and their eggs fell off, but Schrag said their ability to adapt saved them.

“I’m always telling people, ‘You may think that your profit is going to be over here, and if you are lucky, you’ll be right.’ Most people aren’t that lucky. Most people go through trial and error, and in the end, the customer decides,” Schrag said.

He also said it can be good to tiptoe into a business. A Kansas City-area printer Schrag knows uses a wide press – a piece of specialty equipment most printers don’t have. The company, Lew Printing, bought a wide press and owner Larry Wittmeyer began his business out of his home by letting area print shops know that he could handle specialty jobs for them. The owner started slow but eventually grew his business and was able to leave his other job. Schrag said entrepreneurialism is all about finding and filling a need in the market.

He also said networking is important. Schrag recommended new business owners join trade associations to learn industry best practices. In the craft beer market, Schrag has leaned on the experience of industry veterans with Boulevard Brewing Co., Schlafly Beer and New Belgium Brewing Co. to help guide production-related decisions.

Step 2: Failure management
Developer Matt E. Miller – who is embarking on a multimillion-dollar student housing project dubbed The Q Place – knows a thing or two about failing and starting over.

“It’s OK to fail. It’s part of the process to success,” said Miller, who operates Miller Commerce LLC, which has had a hand in developing $100 million in projects, including Deep Elm, The Jefferson and The Monroe.

Last year, Miller and Pat O’Reilly went their separate ways after developing properties together for nearly a decade under Miller-O’Reilly Co. Inc. Miller stopped short of calling the split a business failure, because the company still exists and manages property. They now each develop separately: Miller through Miller Commerce LLC and O’Reilly via O’Reilly Development Co. LLC.

While leading the workshop titled, “Failing is a chance for a new start,” Miller noted business authors estimate for every success, an entrepreneur experiences nearly four failures. Because failures are inevitable and teach valuable lessons, he recommended “failing responsibly.”

“There are casualties involved,” he said.

For Miller, failing responsibly means taking appropriate risks and testing ideas upfront through social media, for example. “It is so easy to test your ideas out there now. There is a value in knowing what doesn’t work,” he said, noting persistence is a business virtue, but being stubborn can have its drawbacks and lead to bigger failures.

The most common failure, he said, is missing out on opportunities to turn good ideas into reality. He said many people don’t succeed because they lack the passion necessary to see a venture through. Also, he cautioned being unprepared for challenges can be a stumbling block.

Ultimately, Miller said it is important for entrepreneurs to be willing to learn from their mistakes. “The best lessons are learned at the scene of the crash,” he said.

Step 3: Exit strategies
Springfield urologist Dr. Howard Follis is well-versed in making the tough decision to sell a startup.

In 2011, Follis sold his 7-year-old electronic medical records software firm to Delaware-based Endo Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: ENDP) for an undisclosed amount. He said selling something he was so personally invested in was not easy.

“We actually were in acquisition mode ourselves. We weren’t really looking to be acquired,” Follis said during the “Staying in it and getting out of it” session.

After launching Intuitive Medical Software LLC in 2004, Follis grew the company through marketing, setting up a professional management team and implementing solid accounting practices. The legwork in the formative years paved the way for a sale.

He said Endo Pharmaceuticals in 2010 began talks with Follis.

“They wanted to buy us, and honestly we were neutral about it. In retrospect, that was a good frame of mind to be in, because we didn’t need to sell,” Follis said of the 35-person firm.

He said the first offer was low, based on comparable sales in the industry, so Follis declined and went back to work. Weeks later, Endo officials increased their offer, and after a roughly six-month negotiation period that included a financial review of the company, the transaction closed.

Follis, who still works as a urologist two days a week, said he’s been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and now is developing a mobile EMR system for health care professionals.

Follis said older EMR software often isn’t compatible with newer tablet technology, so he’s forging ahead with development even though his return on investment is unclear.

Rick Thomas, co-organizer of the 1 Million Cups business-networking event in Springfield and a panelist in the Spin66 session on failure, said the nature of development is uncertain. What separates entrepreneurs from others is they are willing to blaze new trails.

“Development is exactly that – you don’t know where you are going. You’re developing,” Thomas said. “All entrepreneurs are willing to fail. That’s what keeps them in the game.”

Editor Eric Olson contributed to this story.

Architecture firms honored for Springfield-area projects (Deep Elm) - Springfield Business Journal

SBJ Staff

Wednesday, May 07, 2014 7:02 AM

Dake Wells Architecture Inc. co-owner Andrew Wells speaks during the biannual award ceremony held by the Springfield chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Among its eight awards, Dake Wells took home an honor award and judge's appreciation award for its Gobbler's Mountain House residence project in Kimberling City, below.

The Springfield chapter of American Institute of Architects hosted an award ceremony last week honoring eight firms for design work on local projects.

Springfield-based Dake Wells Architecture Inc. took home eight awards, the most of the night. Firms were honored by two panels made up of professional and public juries, according to a news release.

Dake Wells received awards from the professional jury for its work on Missouri State University's Carrington Hall auditorium and Gobbler's Mountain House, a residence on Table Rock Lake for clients Kerry and Cory Watts. Dake Wells also was recognized with merit awards for the design of the office for aluminum window supplier KLF Architectural Systems, 1440 W. Republic Road; a middle and high school addition for the Spokane school district; MSU-West Plain's Gohn Hall; and Reeds Spring Middle School.

From the public jury, Dake Wells received a public recognition award for Gohn Hall and the judge's appreciation award for Gobbler's Mountain House.

The second-most winning firm was Kansas City-based Hufft Projects, which earned five awards, three from the professional and two from the public panels. The company was honored for:

  • its Curved House residence design in Springfield, given an honor award by the professional jury;
  • 338 Boonville Avenue in downtown Springfield, given an honor award by the professional jury;
  • The Shed project in Springfield, given a merit award by the professional jury;
  • its Porch House residence design for Paul and Hannah Catlett in Springfield, given an honorable mention award by the public jury; and
  • the Tamati House residence project for client Matt O'Reilly, also given an honorable mention by the public jury.

The professional jury also gave out an honor award to Boston-based Cannon Design for its work on the Bill R. Foster and Family Recreation Center at MSU. A merit honor was awarded to Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. for its work on the downtown Jordan Valley Maintenance Facility.

For its public recognition awards, the public jury also honored:

  • Sapp Design Associates PC for its work on Irving Elementary School in Joplin and its design of the Woodneath branch library in Kansas City for Mid-Continent Public Library;
  • Cannon Design for the MSU rec center;
  • Bates & Associates Inc., for the student-housing development Deep Elm near MSU; and
  • Butler, Rosenbury & Partners, for the Watershed Center in Springfield

Honorable mentions from the public jury also were awarded to Jack Ball Architects PC for its work on Springfield's Hickory Hills K-8 School; Casey Architecture for its design of the History Museum on the Square; and Sapp Design Associates for its Donald W. Reynolds Library project in Mountain Home, Ark.

Springfield Business Journal: “Budding franchise plants roots in Springfield” (Wilhoit Plaza)

Eric Olson, Editor

Michael Felts plans to open five BYOPizza stores in the Springfield area.

A career writer in the film, television and music industries has chosen Springfield for the next big step in his pizza franchise startup.

Michael Felts and investor partners started the year by opening the first of five planned BYOPizza stores in the area. The Dec. 31 opening at Wilhoit Plaza, 431 S. Jefferson Ave., Ste. 100, is Felts’ third in the build-your-own pizza concept he started a year ago.

Based in Nashville, Tenn., BYOPizza operates corporate stores in West Texas and Southern California, said Felts, who splits his time between Nashville and Los Angeles working for All 3 Media.

At $175,000 apiece, BYOPizza plans to invest $875,000 to open five stores in the Springfield market. Felts, whose parents live in Branson, said leases are signed for additional corporate stores along Republic Road, one at Kansas Expressway and another at Fremont Avenue, and he also plans to open in Ozark’s South Pointe Center and near Branson Landing.

BYOPizza fills a vacancy at Wilhoit Plaza, a mixed-use property downtown where anchor tenants Farmers Gastrobub vacated last month and Moxie Cinema is days away from moving out. Landlord Matt Miller told Springfield Business Journal this month the building is 83 percent occupied, and a lease agreement in the works for the Farmers Gastropub space would push occupancy to 88 percent.

Felts said BYOPizza signed a five-year lease for $2,000 a month in the corner space previously occupied for a short stint by Casablanca Bistro LLC and Quizno’s before that. Felts’ plans were delayed a month when city inspectors took a closer look at BYOPizza’s unique oven system, thinking it might require a second ventilation hood. He said they reached a resolution without the restaurant incurring additional costs.

BYOPizza sells individual pizzas with toppings from crab to hot dogs for $5 to $8 apiece. He said the patented oven, valued at $45,000, cooks the pizzas in less than 90 seconds.

While Felts is expanding the pizza concept, he’s also developing a TV show, dubbed “Rebuilding America.” He’s had time to get the Springfield restaurant off the ground while a crew is filming in Batesville, Ark. Felts has hired Michael Patton to serve as BYOPizza’s area director.

He has partnered with former Dallas Cowboys player Daniel Loper, country music singer Jerrod Niemann and songwriter Richie Brown to sell the franchise concept. Franchise fees are $35,000 with 8 percent royalties collected, including advertising placements, he said.

Felts wrote and directed his first feature film, “Yorktown,” in 2011, and his second, titled “Night 31,” is in development, according to his biography on


Springfield Business Journal: “MSU art department hosts Brick City ribbon-cutting event”

SBJ Staff

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 6:54 AM

Gov. Jay Nixon joined Missouri State University officials this morning in recognizing the new downtown home for the university's art and design department: Brick City.

The university hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Brick City West Gallery, 215 W. Mill St. Tours of the facilities followed the program, according to a news release.

“The move to Brick City has given the art and design department the room to grow, not just in terms of square footage, but also in exchanging ideas, creating new collaborations and redefining our shared vision,” Carolyn Cardenas, head of the department of art and design, said in the release.

Renovations on the former industrial buildings that comprise Brick City began in 2007 by owner and developer Matt Miller Co. Part of IDEA Commons, the remodeled Brick City complex provides more than 85,000 square feet of space in four buildings for art and design classes, according to the release.

Buildings 3 and 4, which opened in 2010 and 2008 respectively, are home to the classrooms and studio workshops that serve studio art classes, art education, sculpture, drawing and painting, as well as the Brick City Galleries. Advertising agency The Marlin Co. also leases the third floor of Building 3 from Matt Miller Co.

Building 1, which is now open on floors one through three, houses the department’s main offices, the Visual Resources Collection and the Brick City Design Studio. This building also accommodates the studios and classroom spaces for ceramics, printmaking, graphic design and illustration, animation, digital arts, metals and jewelry, photography and art history, according to the release.

Renovations continue on the fourth floor of Building 1, which will house the cooperative Doctor of Pharmacy program between the University of Missouri-Kansas City and MSU. The first class is scheduled to enroll in fall 2014. Building 5 serves as photography lighting studios.

“A tired, worn-out part of downtown has been improved and, in the process, we have created some of the best art space anywhere,” MSU President Clif Smart said in the release. “As we work to upgrade our facilities during the next several years for our students and faculty, this project will certainly be a particular point of pride.”

Smart said the space vacated by the art and design department on campus will be renovated and reassigned to other academic units. MSU has an option to purchase buildings at Brick City as part of its lease agreements, the release said.

“We have dreamed about the day when everyone from the department of art and design could be located in one place and benefit from the creative spark that close proximity produces, and now that day is here. Many people contributed to helping make this dream come true, and we are grateful for that help,” Gloria Galanes, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said in the release.

Springfield Business Journal: “Business Spotlight: Home for Life” (The Fremont)


Click here to read the online article

Business Spotlight: Home for Life

With the addition of assisted living and memory care units, The Fremont extends its level of care for residents

Brian Hom, Contributing Writer

Monday, July 29, 2013 9:19 AM

Fresh off $5.6 million in expansion work, The Fremont Senior Living represents a new start.

After passing a state health inspection of the new 38,000 square feet, the latest licensure adds 56 assisted living and 16 memory care beds to the community, pushing The Fremont’s total residency to 127 units.

The three-year expansion process, which required rezoning and neighborhood approval, was spearheaded by architect H Design Group. Miller-O’Reilly Co., though recently divested, will continue its property management role for The Fremont, which Executive Director Brad Eldridge says he expects to reach capacity by year’s end.

Operated by Arrow Senior Living in St. Louis, The Fremont’s memory care unit is equipped with motion sensors in each of the 16 rooms. For residents with a shaky grip on cognizant reality, providing a comprehensive continuum of care means far more than three square meals, secure doors and watchful eyes.

Pointing to the wide-open layout of the memory care unit’s kitchen, Eldridge talks about such elements as the therapeutic properties of smell, which research has long-shown to be the tightest sensory link to long-term memory.

“What happens is amazing when the smell of some food cooking triggers a memory in someone,” he says. “You can immediately tell from their body language when that long-term cognitive association kicks in. It changes their whole demeanor.”

Jeff Tweten, a regional director for Arrow Senior Living, says anxiety from moving into senior living care has more to do with unfamiliar people than strange surroundings. With the addition of the assisted living and memory care units, long-term residents of The Fremont can step up their level of care without leaving their neighborhood.

“We call it Home for Life,” say Tweten, who has worked for Arrow since 2008. “It’s something that’s worked very well in our other facilities.”

Now operating three senior living communities in Springfield, St. Louis and Las Vegas, Arrow Senior Living got its start in the mid-2000s as Turnaround Solutions LLC, consulting in assessment, rehab and realignment of failing senior housing projects. Working around the country, Turnaround Solutions has restored dozens of companies to profitability, assembling a toolbox of senior housing best practices, many of which are implemented at The Fremont.

The team in Springfield is led by Eldridge, who took the job earlier this year. He succeeds John Sellars, who last fall returned to the director post at the Springfield-Greene County History Museum. Eldridge is known for managing the Ozark Mountain Ducks semiprofessional baseball team in the early 2000s and most recently managed Americare’s Lakewood assisted living and memory care properties in Springfield.

Eldridge says The Fremont is ramping up its staff of 15 by adding nurses, chefs, medication technicians and administrative workers to keep pace with increases in residents. He expects to be at capacity with 50 employees within six months.

Old problems
The U.S. senior population continues to swell, with census data from 2000–10 indicating an 18 percent increase in seniors 85 and older – the fastest-growing segment of the senior population. Concurrently, the incidence of dementia in individuals 65 and older is projected to nearly triple in the next 40 years to 13.8 million cases in 2050 from 4.7 million cases in 2010, according to the Journal of Neurology. National experts say dementia, which has quietly become the sixth leading cause of death among those 65 and older, will drastically increase in coming decades.

Brad Eldridge manages The Fremont Senior Living's 22 villas, 56 assisted living beds and 16 memory care beds.

The Fremont Senior Living

Owner: Arrow Senior Living
Founded: 2008
Address: 1520 E. Bates St., Springfield, MO 65804
Phone: (417) 881-0500
Services/Products: Senior living community, with 127 housing units, including assisted living and memory care accommodations
Employees: 15

Student Housing Business: The Latest News: “Miller O’Reilly Opens Two Communities at Missouri State” (Deep Elm & The Jefferson)

Click here to read Student Housing Business:

Springfield, Mo. — Miller O'Reilly Real Estate Developers have announced the opening of two new apartment developments, Deep Elm and The Jefferson, which both opened to students of Missouri State in August. The new projects arrived on the heels of The Monroe, which opened in fall 2011 and was sold to MSU in December 2012. Deep Elm and The Jefferson have recently launched websites. The properties offer bed-bath parity, and Deep Elm brings a building design that's new to the Springfield market. Miller O'Reilly says it pioneered by-the-bed-leasing strategy in Springfield with the introduction of Walnut Quads and The Monroe over the past two years.

Springfield Business Journal: “IDEA Commons tops $70M in development” (Brick City)

Brian Brown, Contributing Writer

Monday, February 04, 2013 8:32 AM

More than five years of planning and roughly $11.5 million has transformed the former Willow Brook Foods’ poultry processing facility into a resource for business startups and small firms looking for some help to reach their higher potentials.

In March, Missouri State University plans to unveil the Robert W. Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development as a key piece of IDEA Commons, an initiative to bring together innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts across 88 center city acres.

In all, the IDEA Commons urban park is expected to take at least 20 years and $100 million in public and private investments.

Allen Kunkel, MSU associate vice president for economic development and director of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, said IDEA comprises three facilities focused on forwarding innovation in support of local business development: Brick City, home to university art and design classes and the future University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy at MSU; JVIC, the research and development arm of the IDEA initiative; and the Plaster Center, where MSU’s business incubator and support service groups will work alongside the university’s printing and postal department and the cooperative engineering program between MSU and Missouri University of Science and Technology.   

The eFactory
The bulk of the 120,000-square-foot Plaster Center is dedicated to The eFactory, a business incubator collaborative between MSU and Springfield Innovation Inc. – the business resource division of JVIC. Springfield Innovation will manage the shared resources available to startups and small firms.

“The ideal candidates are startups or entrepreneurs who are still in the early stages of forming their company – someone who may be working out of their home or another location who may need more visibility or credibility – and need the services we can provide,” Kunkel said.

Brian Kincaid, The eFactory’s business incubator coordinator, said the concept is to serve as a one-stop shop for small and developing businesses seeking the space or educational resources needed to grow.

“We would typically like to see a business come in and go from idea to job creation to moving out into the community in three to five years, but there are no hard and fast rules,” Kincaid said, noting the university’s goal is to create 850 jobs in its first five years of the incubator’s operation.

Six companies have signed letters of intent to lease 10 of the 28 spaces available at The eFactory, he said. Declining to name the companies without lease agreements in place, Kincaid described them as centered on technology, Internet and software. In all, the offices available to small businesses range in size from 150 square feet to roughly 2,000 square feet.

He said lease terms for tenants would be flexible and designed to meet client needs, with opportunities for businesses to upgrade to larger office spaces as they grow.

Rayanna Anderson, director of MSU’s Small Business & Technology Development Center, said her small-business counseling and training staff would be a key resource for businesses at the Plaster Center.

SBDTC training largely focuses on financing and marketing topics. Anderson said training for executive-level certification programs, such as those for Certified Financial Planners and Certified Public Managers, would be housed at the Plaster Center through MSU’s Management Development Institute, which she also manages.

Other partners such as Score, a business-mentoring group of retired professionals, will operate in the building, and Kunkel said with so many entrepreneurially minded individuals, there could be opportunities for collaborative projects.

Pharm D. and beyond
On Jan. 16, MSU’s Board of Governors approved a sublease for nearly $250,000 per year of the 15,000-square-foot fourth floor at Brick City, Bldg. I, to the UMKC for its doctoral pharmacy program. MSU Vice President for Administrative and Information Services Ken McClure said MSU art and design students and faculty would begin to occupy the first three floors in July. UMKC, McClure said, would move into the fourth floor the following January, with classes expected to begin by fall semester 2014.

Kunkel said at least $60 million in public and private investment has been devoted to date to the JVIC facility and equipment inside the labs on Boonville Avenue – housing such tenants as Brewer Science and Crosslink – bringing investments at JVIC and the Plaster Center to more than $70 million.

McClure said rents on Brick City Bldgs. III and IV represent an investment of nearly $1.5 million, with another $600,000 in lease payments scheduled to begin on Bldg. I in July.

MSU has occupied Brick City Bldg. IV since 2008 and Bldg. III since 2011. The former Bldg. II is now green space, and the 5,000-square-foot Bldg. V is unoccupied.   

Under the agreement with Matt Miller Co., owner of the Brick City buildings, MSU will have the option to buy the properties in the sixth year of the of the 10-year lease.

MSU Provost Frank Einhellig has been working since 2007 to bring the state’s only accredited Pharm. D program to town. UMKC also partners with the University of Missouri-Columbia to train students in Columbia. Einhellig said the prospect of finding funding to start MSU’s own doctoral program was once briefly considered, but amid recession-imposed budget constraints, administrators opted to form a collaborative agreement with UMKC.

He said UMKC will run the program at Brick City, and MSU will funnel students who are looking for careers as pharmacists. He said MSU has been aware of a need for more pharmacists in the region for years, and having a program in town should go a long way toward filling local demand, especially in rural areas.

“We are trying to act not just as a good educational institution, but as a good partner with the community,” Einhellig said, noting the IDEA concept promotes economic development through a variety of means to benefit Springfield and the region. “Pharmacy is one of those areas.”


“MSU VP straddles local, global economic development” (Brick City) - Springfield Business Journal


Geoff Pickle, Web Producer

From downtown Springfield to western China, Jim Baker is making waves in economic development on a global scale.

Baker, vice president for research and economic development and international programs at Missouri State University, was interviewed this morning by Springfield Business Journal Editor Eric Olson as SBJ's first guest of the year for its monthly 12 People You Need to Know breakfast series.

At home, Baker is largely focused on the cultivation of IDEA Commons, an MSU-led movement focused on bringing together innovation, design, entrepreneurship and the arts in 88 center city acres.

What started with the 2007 construction of Jordan Valley Innovation Center has blossomed into leased space in Brick City and the development of the Robert W. Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development in the former Willow Brook Foods turkey processing plant. Baker estimated the completion of the initiative would take at least 20 years and $100 million in public and private investments.

The 120,000-square-foot Robert W. Plaster Center, which Baker said was purchased by MSU in 2009 for $2.8 million, is scheduled to open in March with a grand opening later this fall. The building is designed to house MSU's Small Business & Technology Development Center, offer class space for engineering students of Missouri University of Science and Technology and create a business incubator known as the E-Factory.

"Essentially what we're doing is establishing a one-stop shop for small businesses," Baker said. "We want small companies to become big companies."

During its Jan. 16 meeting, the MSU Board of Governors is scheduled to vote on whether to increase the budget for the phase two renovation of the Robert W. Plaster Center by $117,000 to $8.5 million.

Baker noted businesses would be asked to move out of the incubator after reaching a certain size to keep the cycle of startup to big business rolling along.

At leased space from Matt Miller Co. at Brick City, the university's art students attend classes, and a deal penned in late 2011 would allow the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy to sublease space in the building from MSU to open a satellite school likely starting next fall. The board of governors is scheduled to approve or disapprove the sublease during its meeting tomorrow.

According to Baker, the UMKC partnership means more economic development, as well as additional workforce.

"All the professors that come to reside downtown actually make quite a bit of money, and hopefully the pharmacists when they get out will make quite a bit of money," Baker said. "There's a huge shortage of pharmacists in southwest Missouri. The concept is that if a person gets trained here, they'll probably stay here."

He noted MSU and its staff have historically impacted the local economy to the tune of about $1 million a day.

Globally, the 20-year MSU veteran works to recruit students utilizing partnerships in China, and he is pushing this year for students from Vietnam, Brazil, Chile and possibly Russia. MSU inked a deal in November authorizing a Master of Business Administration transfer deal with Santiago, Chile-based University of Andres Bello. Baker said MSU has 1,426 international students in the states, roughly 800 of which are transfer students from China.

Baker said he and other MSU officials look at emerging markets for potential partnerships, places where money is flowing or burgeoning. Through his connections, Baker has worked with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce in an effort to introduce local and Chinese businesspeople. "The Chinese market is like the Wild West; you can lose everything or you can do very well," Baker said.

When working with businesspeople from outside of the U.S., Baker recommends patience, an open-minded willingness to learn the culture and treating others with respect. "The Golden Rule works in every country I've been to," he said.

Bridging the gap among cultures in Springfield is MSU's downtown Foreign Languages Institute at the Jim D. Morris Center, a partnership between MSU, Drury, Evangel and Southwest Baptist universities and Ozarks Technical Community College that would prepare graduates for an increasingly global workforce. Courses are set to begin in the fall.

“Monroe Project Achieved LEED Certification” (The Monroe) - HDesign Group's Blog

Monroe Project Achieved LEED Certification

December 28, 2012 in Architecture, H news

H Design Group is proud to announce that The Monroe, University Housing at Missouri State, has achieved LEED Certification.

The Monroe features such LEED concepts as highly efficient HVAC, lighting, window systems, and sustainable construction materials.  This living/learning facility was built for the United Ministries Group in conjunction with Missouri State University.  Its location within the Missouri State campus allows for a greater/easier/greener connectivity for the facility users to access surrounding public transportation opportunities as well as many public services.

Click here to read H-Design Group’s Blog “Monroe Project Achieved LEED Certification” (The Monroe)

From the Ground Up: The Fremont Retirement Community

1520 E. Bates Ave.

Brittany Meiling, Editorial Intern

Tuesday, November 20, 2012 10:15 AM

Owner/developer: Miller-O’Reilly Co. Inc.
General contractor: Build LLC
Architect: H Design Group LLC
Engineers: Olsson Associates Inc., civil; Wells & Scaletty LLC, structural; Colvin Jones Davis LLC, mechanical, electrical and plumbing
Size: 37,800 square feet
Estimated cost: $5 million
Lender: Empire Bank
Estimated completion date: June
Project description: An expansion of The Fremont Retirement Community comprises two buildings: a 30,500-square-foot assisted living facility and a 7,300-square-foot memory care facility, according to Bryon Oster, project architect with H Design Group LLC. He said the two-story assisted living facility includes 56 beds across 48 single-bedroom and studio apartment units, a commercial kitchen, theater, private dining room, salon and Jacuzzi and workout rooms. The single-story memory care building comprises 16 beds across eight two-bedroom units, a commercial kitchen, sunroom, salon and Jacuzzi room.