Springfield City Council on April 23 fielded nearly an hour of public comment on a $2.3 million plan to rehabilitate the historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge.
Plans for the bridge over the railroad tracks north of Commercial Street include restoring its main span at an estimated $1.4 million, while adding elevators and viewing decks on the north and south sides of the structure. The plans include Federal Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
The city closed the footbridge – a key pedestrian access point to C-Street – in 2016 because of structural concerns.
At the council meeting, members reviewed whether to approve project funding and bid solicitation. Assistant Public Works Director Kirk Juranas said the work largely would be financed through in-hand federal Surface Transportation Block Grant funding.
“We’ve been working on this since March of 2016, so this project has been in development for a long time,” Juranas said, also noting the city would fund $500,000 of the project costs through sales tax revenue and a $50,000 pledge from the nonprofit Commercial Club that represents the C-Street community.
He said seeking bids now could allow the city to award a winning contract by fall. Meanwhile, city officials would continue working with the State Historic Preservation Office on the project, Juranas said.
Preservation was a point of pause for the council, which appeared willing to move on the project with an assurance the bridge was restored correctly, among other issues. The steel-suspension footbridge was built in 1902.
“Sometimes, when we do things fast, we do things wrong,” said Councilman Richard Ollis, who motioned to table bidding efforts on the project. “I don’t know if this is the right plan, the right proposal, to send out to bid at this point.”
With a 7-2 vote, the majority of council agreed with Ollis, who also suggested alternative pedestrian-access improvements to the underpasses at Lyon and Washington avenues. Council members Thomas Prater and Phyllis Ferguson voted in opposition to the two-week tabling. Council will reconsider the project during its May 7 meeting.
During the public remarks, strong community commitment to the footbridge was expressed. Others, though, held reserved views on the proposed project funding and whether added attributes, such as elevators and viewing platforms, might alter the structure’s historic guidelines.
Springfield Landmarks Board member Paden Chambers advised the city to “slow down” and “re-examine” the project to ensure the improvements remained in line with historic preservation standards. Chambers represents Commercial Street on the board.
Rusty Worley, executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association, said he was speaking as a city resident while he urged council to make a thorough review of the project, which he ultimately supports.
Juranas said the city currently has about $8 million in Surface Transportation Block Grant funding, which the city also plans to use for cost-share projects with the Missouri Department of Transportation. The projects include intersection improvements at Campbell Avenue and Republic Road, Kearney Street and West Bypass, and Kansas Expressway at both Sunset and Walnut Lawn streets.
David Eslick also was among the nearly dozen-strong residents who urged council to move forward, but he also asked council to heed the historical concerns.
“This bridge is probably the most important thing to north-side Springfield,” said Eslick, a former chairman of the Landmarks Board. “This is one of the last steel-suspension footbridges in the United States.”
Council also reviewed a proposed redevelopment plan – and related 10-year property tax abatement – to build a four-story, 17-unit apartment complex along Harrison Street.
The proposed multifamily building would replace a partially burned structure at the southeast corner of Harrison Street and Kimbrough Avenue, as well as a dilapidated brick home, in the 600-block of East Harrison. Both structures have been demolished.
Proposed by Roza Capital Group LLC, the redevelopment plan is the first to surface since the city lifted its moratorium on such efforts after passage of the city’s “workable plan.” The plan redefined how property tax abatement could be used in Springfield.
The redevelopment plan was submitted in August 2017, thereby being grandfathered into the workable program and not held to the new standards. A final council vote is expected May 7.
Stinson & Co. LLC garnered unanimous approval from council to purchase the city’s former Fire Station No. 1, along Kimbrough Avenue.
Stinson & Co. offered the city $370,000 for the roughly 9,500, two-story firehouse, with plans to convert the space for use as a microbrewery and tap house. A tenant has not yet been announced.
Engineering firm Interpres Building Solutions LLC also received unanimous support from council to purchase the city’s former Fire House No. 6, near Fassnight Park, for $160,000.
Interpres Building Solutions laid out plans to invest $150,000-$200,000 to renovate the firehouse into its own office space, preserving its exterior and keeping the tower.
Council unanimously approved a rezoning request by Reality Investments LLC of an acre at 225 E. Cardinal St. for a 28-unit multifamily apartment complex. Council also unanimously approved a rezoning request from Calvary Chapel of Springfield for nearly 2 acres at 500 N. National Ave.
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