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City Council revises Kearney redevelopment plan

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In the latest step toward redeveloping Kearney Street in north Springfield, city officials are seeking approval to blight 388 acres along the corridor and enable 100 percent property tax abatements on developer improvements within the Kearney Street Corridor Redevelopment Plan.

Springfield City Council last night unanimously approved a resolution to make the 3.5-mile Kearney corridor a “multiproject redevelopment” area with special permissions for blight and tax abatements.

“This is an incentive program for businesses that choose to use it,” city Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council before the vote.

The blight and tax abatement vote will wait two weeks, as will a related small-business loan program vote. Those bills are scheduled for the July 16 council meeting.

If the blight and abatements are approved, the city would revert to regulations prior to the recently passed new workable plan.

“It gives some special accommodations for this plan,” Kerner said of the proposed ordinance.

For example, Kerner said the multiproject plan does not require the standard “but for” test, which means the redevelopment would not happen but for city tax abatement. It also offers a full 100 percent tax abatement and has a five-year sunset.

She said it’s basically the maximum incentive possible by the city.

“This is going to allow private developers to recoup some of their costs by deferring the additional property taxes on their development,” Councilman Tom Prater said, before addressing zoning concerns. “If anything does get rezoned that would come from a developer who has to come again in public to this meeting.”

Kerner said the bulk of Kearney Street is zoned general retail.

“This is really encouraging the area to just be redeveloped in the way it’s already being used in retail – basically an active retail corridor,” she said.

There are some restrictions. City officials outlined over 20 types of developments not eligible for abatement in the proposed plan, including adult stores, boarding and lodging houses, pawn shops, soup kitchens, swap meets and payday lenders.

Officials noted eminent domain is not part of the plan.

Three members of the public spoke, each representing groups generally in favor of the redevelopment incentives.

“We are pleased with the direction the city and city staff are going with this,” said Bill Owen, representing the North Springfield Betterment Association.

Owen had one request of the city: Add a plan to improve the housing stock in the area.

“We saw what happened when we put a bunch of money downtown on the square, thinking it was going to turn the square around by itself,” he said, recalling the change wasn’t realized until loft apartments and neighborhood improvements, particularly on the west side, came online. “We had to have people with disposable income coming into these areas, and then the demographics are such that the retailers want to be there. They’ll redevelop Kearney Street for us.”

A city-commissioned market study of the Kearney corridor found a potential to capture up to $95 million in additional retail sales. The study was completed by St. Louis-based Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc. in May 2017.

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