Through a familial partnership, Blue Haven Homes’ founders and brothers Sawyer and Sullivan Smith, in partner with their father, hope to bring dignity back to Joplin’s historical Olivia building. When the two brothers purchased the Olivia, it was an investment between both Blue Haven Homes and their father’s company Bykota REI LLC.
Moving forward with the Olivia, Sullivan said it simplifies down to Bykota is technically the owner of the property and Blue Haven Homes is the developer.
“Just for the sake of where we needed to move money, it all kind of started with the YMCA building,” Sawyer said. “… So, the YMCA is technically owned by Bykota as well, but we’re all in it together. Once (the Olivia) is done, Blue Haven will be like operating the apartments in there and all of that. And so, it just kind of made sense for our bigger commercial holdings let’s leave it all in Bykota, get the Olivia building in Bykota, and Blue Haven really just deals with the single-family rehab rental homes in the Joplin area.”
As to what led the two brothers to invest in the Olivia, it happened following the building’s fire in December 2020. Sawyer said he knew that this was a big distress to the Joplin community.
“… (Jeff Neal) approached us and just asked, ‘Are you at all interested in taking this project on?’” Sawyer said. “Kind of gave us some backstory as to what state it was in. And we had already done all our market research for the YMCA, we knew this is a really good market for a project like that. And so, we started our research, started talking with more people, finding out more about how the deal would work, and it just turned out to be a really great opportunity for us to dive in and try to take this on. So, yeah, it honestly kind of fell in our lap and we’re just really glad we were set up right to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and be able to help out the public in that way.”
For a two-year-old business, an investment this size could provide a daunting task, but the Smith brothers look to it with excitement, as they know their team is working alongside them.
“Yeah, it is, but we have great partners who are helping us with this,” Sawyer said. “If it was just us taking it on it would be too daunting, but we are partnering with Jeff Neal who is a very experienced contractor in this area and has done a lot of the buildings. And also, we do have the means of several other big industrial and commercial buildings to put into this. So, we have the means to take on that risk and then we’re partnering with people who know how to manage a project like this and have proven that they know how to manage a project like this, so we’re very confident in the team we have around us.”
Blue Haven Homes involves team members from contractors and realtors, to project managers and handy men, and more, as their team is growing over time.
“It just kind of goes alongside what we’ve been doing with the homes is when Sawyer and I started we quickly realized that we weren’t able to do it all ourselves,” Sullivan said. “… It is like one of our goals is to never try to pursue something alone, but get the right people that can best do these types of projects or whatever we’re focusing on. So that’s what we’re doing here with Jeff Neal and we’ve got some others.”
The Olivia building redevelopment is expected to finish by March 2023 and will act as apartments once again. As the Olivia is considered a historic building in Joplin, stipulations require that the look and feel of the building cannot be redesigned too much. Sawyer explained that, essentially, they will bring the Olivia up to standard codes without changing too much of the building itself.
“So, the general feel of the building I believe has to stay the same because we are redoing this as a historical building,” Sawyer said. “Obviously, we’re not going to use outdated infrastructure—like, we’re not going to keep steam heating in the building or any of that stuff—we’ll be putting in modern facilities, but we do want to also keep it very true to its historic nature with that. So, from the outside you shouldn’t be able to tell that it’s any different, and when you get in you’ll have to look carefully to see what things have changed to make it more modern. But the only things we’re going to do to modernize it are things to bring it into the 21st century as far as its facilities to make it more effective staying warm, staying cool. …”
With redevelopment in its beginning phases, the Smith brothers and Blue Haven Homes hope to make the Olivia building back into what it once was for the Joplin community.
“I think just specifically for the Olivia, we’re very excited to do a project like this,” Sullivan said. “I’d say with (Sawyer) having lived here for close to 11 years now and me for about eight years now, we’re not technically born and raised locals, I think we’re kind of hitting that point where we’re for sure calling this place home, but I think with that we don’t fully understand how some other more long-term local people, we don’t fully understand the impact and like the, kind of the staple that the Olivia is for the city. So, kind of with the more and more we’re learning about it we’re kind of learning more about the responsibility that comes with this building for the city and we’re just very excited to be able to do a project like that for the city and to kind of bring dignity back to that building and just have it kind of brought back to the icon that it was for this area.”