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      Hidden from plain sight

      There's lots of space... mostly empty space above J P Fenny's Sports Grill and Pub, but also lots of potential, and plans are in the works to create apartments here.

      It's a growing trend in Jefferson City, converting storage or unused space above downtown businesses into modern-day apartments, a little bit of urban living in a small city.

      Loft apartments have been popular in urban areas for years, and although there were some successful coversions to above-store living, it took special tax benefits for the movement to take hold here.

      Carrie Carroll's family has been in business downtown for decades, and now the second floor of a building they own on High Street has become the Brandenberger Apartments, named for the drug store that occupied the ground floor years ago.

      Just above the popular Coffee Zone shop, unused space has been converted to two one-bedroom and one two-bedroom apartments. Once completed, they weren't difficult to fill, even at luxury rates.

      "People have been asking, they want something downtown," said Carroll. "They want to live where the action is. They want to live among the coffee shops, the restaurants and all the fun little shops and the unique atmosphere that we have."

      Carroll says even though the apartments are rented, they continue to get inquiries.

      Mike Moscato has been changing his storefront at River City Florists this fall, thanks to a city tax abatement. He'd already converted mostly unused upstairs storage space into his personal living quarters four years ago under that program, work that had some challenges.

      "I took the product and got it out of here and just made it nice, made it homey," said Moscato. "I painted every brick on the wall to get it to its natural look and that was the biggest challenge I had."

      Connie and Darrell Hubble have made the area above Whaley's Pharmacy their home as they move into retirement. The building is from 1896, is now on the national register, and has never looked better. But it took a lot of planning and work.

      "I think our kids thought we were crazy when we did it," said Connie. "Of course, the building is old and they couldn't see the same thing Darrell and I saw in the potential there."

      Much is new, including an elevator so the couple can stay here as they age, but it's the charm of an earlier age that makes it special.

      "There's a lot of interest from people that are not even being solicited," said Moscato. "They would like to do it and be a part of it and I think that's fantastic."

      "It's what makes your downtown alive and sustainable and it's just wonderful," said Carroll.

      Charms that in many of these buildings have been hidden from view.