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A contemporary facade would distinguish a proposed new-build project on Commercial Street.
Provided by Landmarks Board
A contemporary facade would distinguish a proposed new-build project on Commercial Street.

City Beat: Council considers contemporary building on Commercial Street

Some residents express concern about block-long modern facade

Posted online

A proposed addition of a contemporary-styled 38,000-square-foot building to the Commercial Street Historic District is being met with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation by area residents.

Springfield City Council heard a request at its meeting Sept. 19 for a conditional use permit for the three-story mixed-use building in the district.

The applicant for the permit is OzMod 425 LLC, an entity organized by partners from the downtown architectural firm Arkifex Studios. The partners are Cody Danastasio, Tyler Hellweg, Michael Hampton and Blaine Whisenhunt.

Hellweg told council the proposed building would be the new home of Arkifex Studios on the first floor, which would also contain a restaurant and retail outlets. The building would also feature 42 apartment units on its second and third floors.

Eight people plus Hellweg signed up to speak about the proposed development. Becky Volz, president of the neighborhood association for nearby Woodland Heights, said her organization is in support of a development at the corner of C-Street and Lyons Avenue, though they have a concern.

“I along with a lot of my neighbors are very concerned about the compatibility,” Volz said. “Our thoughts are don’t mimic what historic buildings look like, but make the facade more compatible. There are a lot of architectural ways to do that.”

William Angle, who operates Trail Labs LLC, a mountain bike service across the street from the development site, offered support for the project. Angle said the existing structures that span most of the lots in question are in severe disrepair and attract what he referred to as “unsafe people” who hang around the area. Angle added that a modern design would help to highlight the historic nature of the street, rather than detract from it.

Considering the building would be nearly a block long and three stories tall, Commercial Club President Mary Collette said it should be no surprise when people disagree about the scale, bulk and rhythm of the large, modern addition to the neighborhood and, like Volz, raised the concern that the building would not harmonize with the existing architecture in the historic district.

OzMod partner Michael Hampton, interviewed the day after the meeting, said he regarded the council discussion as positive.

“We certainly feel like our style of architecture and design really complements the area,” he said. “From a historical standpoint, we’re designing a building using current and modern construction techniques and materials, just as they would have done throughout the early 20th century when they were developing the buildings on Commercial Street.”

Arkifex promotes a style it calls Ozark modernism, defined on its website as a present-day aesthetic “derived from the urban/rural sense of self and place unique to the modern Ozarks.” Examples of the style can be found in the Kuat Innovations headquarters near Partnership Industrial Center West and at the corporate campus of Fiocchi of America in Ozark.

Hampton pointed out the design process is in the early stages, and the Planning & Zoning Commission would have final approval.

Appointment voted down
By a 5-4 vote, council rejected the appointment of developer Andrew Doolittle to serve on the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission.

Doolittle’s service in the volunteer position was opposed by council members Heather Hardinger, Craig Hosmer, Monica Horton, Abe McGull and Mike Schilling.

Originally, the matter was slated for the consent agenda, which is reserved for items upon which council has unanimous agreement and therefore requires no discussion. Councilperson Hosmer requested that Doolittle’s appointment be removed from the consent agenda. Doolittle is one of the developers of the Loose Goose coffee shop, bar and recreational venue planned for the city’s marquee Grant Avenue Parkway project.

“I was requested by constituents to pull Mr. Doolittle’s name off the consent calendar for appointment or confirmation to the Planning & Zoning board,” Hosmer said. “I certainly have no objection to him personally, but I do think that if constituents want things to be voted on by council, they should be voted on by council, not done by consent.”

Reached at his office the day after the meeting, Doolittle offered a single statement: “I respect council’s decision, and I’ll be looking for other opportunities to serve Springfield.”

Doolittle is a partner in GDL Enterprises LLC, which is constructing the $1 million Loose Goose development following council’s Aug. 22 rezoning for the project. The Loose Goose is the first new commercial development OK’d for the $26 million parkway district, but for it to proceed, it required a change to the special zoning status developed especially for the parkway.

Council’s change of status for the 1.5-acre parcel in the 1000 block of South Grant Avenue to planned development allows a drive-thru for the business’ coffee shop as well as package liquor sales, both excluded under the zoning requirements for the district.

Other action items

  • Council accepted a $1.5 million grant for the LeCompte Road upgrade project from the Economic Development Administration and U.S. Department of Commerce. The road, which serves Springfield Underground, will be widened from the intersection of East Division Street north to the BNSF railroad crossing.
  • Council accepted $1.45 million from Greene County toward construction of a city/county animal shelter. A site at 3303 W. Division St. is being considered for the project.
  • Several zoning changes earned approval. They were 816 W. El Camino Alto Drive, 5.4 acres, for a 59-unit multifamily development by The Ridge HZ 55 LLC; 2801 W. Bennett St., 8 acres, for a multifamily apartment complex up to 88 units by Wood Irrevocable Trust; 610 N. Prospect Ave., 0.2 acres, for new retail and restaurant uses by The Sisters LLC; and 2645 W. Kearney St., 6.8 acres for expansion of a trailer repair and sales business by EM & KM Investments LLC.
  • Council approved parks and recreation regulations for City Utilities of Springfield properties. Also approved was the CU operating budget for fiscal 2023, beginning Oct. 1. Revisions to the curtailable gas service rate for the utility’s largest customers were also OK’d.
  • CU water rates were raised for fiscal 2024 by 5.3%, 2025 by 4.7% and 2026 by 4%. There will be no increase in fiscal ’23.
  • A low bid of $460,000 from Radmacher Brothers Excavating Co. Inc. of Pleasant Hill was accepted for improvements to the Fassnight Creek Greenway Trail. Unsuccessful bidders were D&E Plumbing and Heating Inc., KCI Construction Co. and Hunter Chase & Associates. All bids exceeded the city engineer’s estimate of $317,000.

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