Will Valmeyer cave become business hub?__________________________________________________________________________________
January 14, 2011 www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals
The colossal underground storage center known as Rock City looks like something from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Under cathedral-like rock ceilings, row after row of shelves carry thousands of boxes from the U.S. government - personnel papers for retired federal workers sent from offices around the world.
A million pounds of Oklahoma peanuts and hops for Anheuser-Busch Cos. lay here. Lobsters and salmon are kept cool by chilly temperatures and constant humidity levels.
This space outside Valmeyer was once a limestone mine. Now it's a gigantic storage area measuring 6 million square feet.
Behind all of this is Joe Koppeis, a Columbia businessman who wants to turn Rock City into a teeming business center. His plan: to some day have thousands of people working here.
Limestone, mushrooms and papers
Crews began digging what eventually became Columbia Quarry No. 3 in the late 1800s. The harvested rocks were used in roads and alongside rail tracks. Later, mushrooms were grown in the excavated areas. Portions were turned into a fallout shelter during the Cold War.
The mushroom farming ended in the 1980s, not long before Koppeis opened the Market Place grocery store in Columbia. Later, he built the Falls Reception Center and Conference Center, a Walgreens drug store and other projects around Columbia.
Valmeyer eventually approached Koppeis about utilizing the empty cave site.
In 2007, Koppeis' company, Admiral Parkway Development, spent more than $10 million building a 200,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse in the cave. Today, that corner is operated by Gateway Cold Storage, which takes advantage of the cave's constant 52-degree temperature. (They lower it to 15 degrees below zero for certain items.)
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