Springfield City Council accepted an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration to develop a master plan for the Lake Springfield area.
At its regular meeting Feb. 22, council also approved $200,000 in local funds for the project from the Hatch Foundation, City Utilities and the city’s Environmental Services Department. The federal grant will provide a hydrological study and a master plan for economic development, recreation, transportation and land use at the Lake Springfield site, and public input would be solicited, according to Olivia Hough, senior planner for the city.
Hough said the project would kick off in the spring.
Mayor Ken McClure expressed his enthusiasm for the future of the area in southeast Springfield.
“Lake Springfield is such an asset to our community,” he said.
Councilperson Andrew Lear added that he has watched with interest the improvements at the City Utilities-owned Fellows Lake to draw people to the region.
“There are so many synergies and so many partnerships that can come out of this,” he said, adding that water features have a drawing power for visitors to the community.
Hough agreed, adding that Lake Springfield and Fellows Lake could jointly attract a million people annually from a 10-county area.
City Utilities on Feb. 19 demolished the smokestacks at the decommissioned James River Power Station.
The city is mulling the future of the lake, which is shallow and filled with silt, limiting its recreational uses, according to Randall Whitman, city planner, in past Springfield Business Journal reporting. The master plan will examine potential quality of place initiatives and land use options.
Romine vacates seat
Angela Romine was a no-show for the meeting, having made herself ineligible to serve earlier in the day when she filed to run for Missouri State Senate District 30, with plans to take on incumbent Sen. Lincoln Hough in the upcoming primary.
Romine has served less than a year on council, representing Zone 1.
The City Clerk’s office is accepting applications for those who wish to fill Romine’s vacant seat. Council will appoint that person to serve until the April 4, 2023, election. Applicants must have been a resident of Zone 1 for at least a year prior to filing.
The Brody Corners development proposal returned to council.
Members were prepared to vote on the project Dec. 13, following its introduction at a special meeting Dec. 6, but developer Mike Seitz of West Sunshine Development LLC asked to pull it from that agenda following a Springfield resident’s complaint about transparency.
The proposed development is located at the corner of West Sunshine Street and James River Freeway, the 28-acre site of a former mobile home park that closed and then sank into pollution and decay, including a sewage lagoon that was contaminating wells in the area. The presence of dilapidated structures, crumbling concrete pads, illegal dumping and underground service lines in need of removal combined to meet the criteria for blight, making the property eligible for tax increment financing plan funding.
If passed by council, the TIF measure would allow the developer to be reimbursed to the tune of $3.4 million for improvements, with the reimbursement coming from tax revenue generated through businesses established at the site.
The development plan calls for retail shops, quick-service restaurants, office space and service industry locations, city Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council.
The TIF is proposed over a 23-year period.
Representing the developer at the meeting was Cory Collins, a partner at the law firm of Husch Blackwell LLP, who said if council approves the TIF at its March 7 meeting, development will begin March 8.
Collins said the project was unanimously approved twice by the city’s TIF Commission, and the developer plans to clean up the site.
“We’re not here arguing over whether this is blighted or not,” he said. “We bought it with this in mind.”
He noted the development would bring public improvements to benefit the entire area, like 3,200 feet of waterline that will serve all of the properties it fronts, as well as the extension of power lines.
“We’re going to bring power to the area. It’s going to set up this entire area for future development,” he said.
The developer’s planned investment includes $20.5 million in building costs, $1.8 million in land acquisition and $700,000 in parking lot, lighting and signage fees, Kerner told council.
Costs that would be reimbursed through the TIF agreement include $2.4 million of an estimated $3 million in sitework expenses, $303,000 for off-site fresh water, $252,000 for off-site road work, $150,000 in professional fees and $300,000 in financing fees.
The total cost of the project is $27 million, and $3.4 million, or 12%, is reimbursable through the TIF.
Kerner told council projected tax revenues with the redevelopment over 23 years are $8 million, but without redevelopment, taxes would bring in only $288,000.
The recent meeting marked the first reading in the second round of consideration of the bill following its withdrawal in December, and a second reading and council vote is scheduled for the next meeting March 7.
Other action items
Art Museum Director Nick Nelson said visitors would be invited to sit at a table with broken pottery on it and mend it together before putting it on display. Art therapists from Burrell Behavioral Health plan to provide programming, as does the Springfield Symphony.
In a separate measure, the art museum was given approval to apply for tax credits from the Missouri Development Finance Board for its 2028 Campaign and 30-Year Master Plan.
Wellness Collective LLC launched downtown; I Love Tacos Taqueria LLC expanded; and MLP Accounting & Consulting moved.