Roaster’s Block Grand Opening Brews Fond Memories for Former Folger’s Workers

The historic Swofford building at 717 Broadway, part of the Roaster's Block apartment project, dates to 1899. (Photo by Roaster's Block)

By Kevin Collison

Shirley Rinard worked at the former Folger’s plant at Seventh and Broadway for 45 years, from 1952 to 1997, but never had the perks she saw last week touring its new incarnation as the Roaster’s Block apartments.

Shirley Rinard worked at Folger’s for 45 years, a swimming pool was not among the perks.

“It’s remarkable,” she said. “They didn’t have a swimming pool when I was here.”

Rinard was one of 75 former Folger’s employees–the plant closed in 2012–invited to the grand opening of Roaster’s Block, a 146-unit development that actually began accepting tenants last year. The $35.9 million historic rehab project was done by O’Reilly Development Co. of Springfield.

Lauren Sieker, director of leasing, said the two buildings that make up Roaster’s Block are now 90 percent leased.

“We’re elated at the response we’ve gotten so far from residents and retentions, it’s been amazing,” she said. “In this market, there are so many opportunities for people to go to other projects.”

Architects left reminders of the Roaster’s Block industrial heritage in the buildings.

Roaster’s Block is part of a major apartment boom downtown that’s added thousands of units to the market with thousands more in the pipeline. It’s also the latest project to benefit from the Missouri historic tax credit program, a powerful development tool that’s facing criticism in Jefferson City these days.

For former Folger’s employee Bill Travers, who worked at the plant from 1985 to 2004, saving the historic buildings was a win, both personally and for the city. The two-building complex is made up of The Boss building which opened in 1914 and the Swofford, which dates to 1899.

“These older buildings have a history of sitting empty and this one had people jumping in here to take care of it,” Travers said. “Oftentimes, you see them sitting empty for 10 or 15 years.”

O’Reilly Development bought the buildings in 2013, so they didn’t stay idle long. The first tenants began moving into The Boss in January 2016, and the Swofford was completed in October 2016.

Rents range from $1,100 for a studio; $1,200-$1,700 for a one-bedroom; $1,650-$2,500 for a two-bedroom, and up to $3,975 for a three-bedroom. The rent includes one garage parking space.

Amenities include the “Streetside” patio and swimming pool area, and a large social lounge that includes a full kitchen where residents can take cooking lessons.

“We try to create experiences for our residents to create a strong community,” Sieker said.

An apartment in The Boss building at Roaster’s Block.

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