By Heather McNeill
Mark Williams has built his career on salvaging historic buildings and converting them to residential, commercial and event space. So when he discovered the building that is now Studio Six-11, he saw a great opportunity. The 1899 structure in downtown Joplin was a contributing building to the Sunshine Lamp District, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Surrounded by other historic buildings, it reflects Joplin’s prosperous past, when the city was the zinc and lead mining capital of the world. Yet when Williams acquired the space, no one seemed interested in renting it. The reason, partly, was the appearance of the structure. Gorgeous features such as a tin ceiling were obscured by layers of plaster and paint. And people may have been reluctant to commit to renting out a large space in a downtown that was just beginning to make its comeback. But Williams, who had studied and implemented successful models for renting out properties, had a plan. If he could appeal to multiple tenants, businesses, and event planners by allowing them to pay a smaller amount to share the space, he could both fill the building and enliven the area with activity. “We’ve gotten away from that in the Midwest because there’s so much space, but now everybody is coming back to these urban downtowns,” he says.
Now, just as Williams envisioned, Studio Six-11 serves multiple roles. Part of the space has been converted into two 2,300-square-foot luxury lofts. The 2,000-square-foot main floor is used by several dance groups, personal trainers, and exercise classes. And this same area provides a functional and charming event space for 20 to 100 people.
Studio Six-11 was once the Frisco Hotel, housed the Joplin Athletic Club, and even at one time had Turkish baths. It was the site of several music stores, Walker Piano House, Burke Music, and Ernie Williamson’s Music. Fascinated with his hometown’s history, Williams knew about the structure’s past. But he didn’t know exactly what he and his crew would find when they started their restoration efforts. “We discovered this big, beautiful tin ceiling, underneath two layers of other ceilings,” Williams says. Williams retained these features and even improved upon them. The tin ceiling is now painted a shiny copper color. Tiffany-style lights add to the elegant feel of the room. Even the floors have been restored to capture the essence of the historic space. “You can still see where the heaters used to be, to keep the pianos in tune,” he says. “We left those spots for the character of the building.” This character is precisely what has appealed to a diverse group of tenants, businesspeople, and planners who have used Studio Six-11. “I have an aerobics class, an exercise class, ballet…One night it’s Argentine tango, the next night it’s ballroom dancing,” Williams says. “They love the wood floors, they love the openness of the feel, they love the historic nature of downtown.”
Angela Horner, a certified personal trainer, is one of those who use Studio Six-11 on a regular basis. She teaches group exercise, including sports conditioning, for about 20 people several days a week. Horner agrees that the atmosphere is one of the space’s biggest draws. “The tin ceiling, drop down lights and older downtown feeling is what I really like about it,” she says. She also appreciates that just behind Studio Six-11 is an abundance of parking spaces, a rare find for an urban space. The expansive, unobstructed room has also appealed to groups looking for a versatile space for a presentation or a class. “We have a photographer who uses it once a month, who has 15 to 20 students,” Williams says. “Because it’s an open space, you can do demonstrations and classes in there.”
These same features appeal to planners who host meetings, events, and even teambuilding activities at Studio Six-11. Because downtown Joplin has few options for event space, Six-11 has served a need for many groups looking for an urban locale. “There are 12 restaurants within 3 blocks of here, and none of them has meeting space or party rooms because of the limited space of the urban downtown,” Williams says. The affordability of the Six-11 space, $100 for a partial day or $250 for a full day, also appeals to planners. Deena Beckham, an event coordinator in Joplin, has used Studio Six-11 for multiple events. Recently, she planned a class reunion in the space for a group of about 40 people. “They brought in round tables, a buffet style dinner that we catered, and they brought in a DJ,” she says. “They had fun—they didn’t do a whole lot of décor; they liked the classic look.” Beckham is also planning a Studio Six-11 event with a James Bond theme, which will include a red carpet running through the room, and casino-style tables. “That’s a nice thing about the space,” she says. “It can be plain and you can have a nice event, or you can bring in lighting and make it something different.” A rental company in town can supply tables, chairs, and audio visual equipment. Planners can choose their own caterers, or choose from a list of preferred caterers who have done a range of events in the space, from black tie affairs to casual barbecues. Another aspect of the space that Beckham appreciates is its location. Multiple retail stores and restaurants give attendees options for exploring. In fact, right next door to the building is Club 609, a restaurant and bar where attendees can continue the revelry after their parties have ended. “When the event wraps up, they have a place to continue to hang out,” Beckham says. “They can stay and enjoy downtown a little longer.” Williams says tenants, businesspeople, and planners share this appreciation for the building’s character as well as what Joplin’s Main Street can offer. “They’re looking for unique, economical space,” Williams says. “And people are so enamored with what’s happening downtown.” MM&E
(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)
611 S. Main St.
Joplin, MO 64801
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