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City Beat: Council mulls Cherry Street development in Rountree

Redevelopment proposal is permitted amid the neighborhood's moratorium

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Springfield City Council members Aug. 7 reviewed plans and a blight report for redevelopment along East Cherry Street in the Rountree neighborhood where a development moratorium is in place.

The plan submitted by Roza Homes LLC calls for the demolition of two current structures and the construction of two 12-unit, multifamily buildings with an undefined tax abatement plan by the city.

“We particularly thought this plan did a good job of maintaining the neighborhood character,” Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council.

She said the redevelopment proposal is not affected by the nine-month moratorium council approved this summer because it doesn’t require a rezoning or lot combination.

On half an acre along the north side of Cherry Street between Fremont and Kickapoo avenues, the redevelopment site’s two current properties, 1325 and 1329 E. Cherry St. are uninhabitable, Kerner said. Built in 1905 and 1920, both of the old houses have sagging patios, rotting window frames and outdated gas heating systems, and they’re likely to contain lead-based paint.

The 1329 E. Cherry St. property also has walls covered in mold.

“It’s not some kind of modern wallpaper,” Kerner said, pointing at pictures on screen in council chambers.

Councilman Richard Ollis, however, was concerned about traffic.

“I live close to the area there and there is an increasing number of traffic issues,” he said, noting the city should proceed with caution when looking to build additional multifamily residences in that area.

“I would note that this is already zoned for this use,” Kerner responded. “Typically what triggers a traffic study is a rezoning.”

Development discussions in Rountree have increased of late. The moratorium put real estate developer Kelly Byrne of SayUCan.com in a tough spot when he proposed a $5 million mixed-use development with lofts above retail space at 1405-1425 E. Cherry St. and 527 S. Pickwick Ave. – properties he was already under contract to buy. Because the development required a rezoning, it was turned away.

In the latest proposal before council, Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. architect Geoffrey Butler spoke on behalf of Roza Homes, owned by Brandon Dickman. Butler was unable to provide council members the project’s cost or value of the tax abatement.

Neither Butler nor Dickman could be reached for comment by deadline.

Kerner said once council addresses the blight request and redevelopment proposal, the developer can formally apply for a tax abatement plan.

Council is scheduled to vote on the matter Aug. 21. If approved, the project is scheduled for completion in April 2018, according to city documents.

Beverly Lofts amendment
Council members also reviewed an amendment to the redevelopment plan submitted by Beverly Lofts Redevelopment Corp. The project, approved by council April 3, will revamp property at the corner of Cherry Street and Kimbrough Avenue.

Split into two phases, the first originally called for the rehabilitation of 529 E. Cherry St. into a 16-unit apartment building and the demolition of structures at 519 and 525 E. Cherry St. The second phase called for a roughly 25-unit apartment in the place of the demolished buildings.

Since council approval, Kerner said developer Jason Murray was advised floor plans for the buildings should be revised to qualify for state and federal historic preservation tax credits.

“Once we got deeper into the project with our historic consultant and the National Park Service, they wanted us to retain more of the original walls and apartment layouts of the original historic structure,” Murray said at the meeting.

With changes approved, the first structure at 529 E. Cherry would increase the number of units to as many as 22. In the other structure, the potential number of units would expand to 28 units.

“Because specific plans for this phase have not yet been finalized, the redevelopment corporation would be required to amend the redevelopment plan to incorporate finalized plans and specifications, prior to beginning construction,” council documents read.

The amendment will be voted on Aug. 21.

Rivercut, museum funds
By a 7-1 vote, council approved a $600,000 interest-free loan to the Springfield-Greene County Park Board for the replacement of three wooden bridges in Rivercut Golf Community. Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky opposed.

The loan will fund installation of flood-withstanding steel bridges.

Parks and Recreation Director Bob Belote, who presented the first-reading bill at the July 24 meeting, said flooding in the last two years had cost Rivercut upwards of $365,000 in reconstruction. Stronger bridges would allow the golf course to recover from heavy rainfall within a matter of days, not months, Belote said. The loan will be paid back over the next five years.

Council also unanimously approved a budget adjustment for the Springfield Art Museum in the amount of $255,000 to hire a consultant for developing a new master site plan for the building and grounds at its 1111 E. Brookside Drive campus. It also funds a capital campaign for improvements identified in the plan.

Museum Director Nick Nelson has said annual attendance is up 66 percent the last five years, prompting the need for changes.

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