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Shoe factory kicks off effort to save building with party

Passers-by wondered what was going on.

There were food trucks, balloons, and music at the corner of Cass and Jefferson Avenues on Thursday afternoon.

It’s all part of Jim Osher’s effort to save the Buster Brown Blue Ribbon Shoe Factory. (You can read St. Louis Public Radio's previous story here.)

“This is the kick-off party,” he told reporters.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building is within the proposed footprint for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new facility. It will likely face demolition unless Osher can get the millions of dollars needed to move the 85,000 square foot building.

In eminent domain proceedings the court-appointed commissioners have recommended the city pay $810,000.

But Osher said he can’t resist the challenge.

“Sometimes the kid just never dies. That’s part of it,” he said, laughing. “Part of it is the history. Part of it is jobs for the future.”

Osher wants to turn the building into a shoe-themed hotel and showcase the building’s history of producing children’s shoes under the Buster Brown name. Buster Brown was a cartoon character at the turn of the 20th century that soon became a mascot for the Brown Shoe Company.

On Thursday afternoon there was an actor dressed in a bright red costume, wearing a blond, pageboy wig. Buster Brown’s character lived again, at least for a couple of hours outside the old shoe factory.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.