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City Beat: Developer seeks approval of C-Street plan

Missouri Hotel update one of four projects envisioned

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Plans to redevelop a 7.5-acre area that encompasses parts of the Commercial Street Historic District and the Midtown neighborhood received a mixed reception when introduced to Springfield City Council at its March 25 meeting.

Commercial-Pacific Street Redevelopment Corp., headed by developer Titus Williams, president of Prosperiti Partners LLC, is looking to begin a four-phase development of an area bounded to the north by the 400-500 blocks of East Commercial Street and extending south of Pacific Street. The project includes renovation of the 42,000-square-foot Missouri Hotel, which Williams has been planning to renovate since he purchased the property in 2017.

The area, comprising 17 parcels, is between North Jefferson Avenue to the west and Benton Avenue to the east, and it also includes 536-540 E. Commercial St., a commercial structure built circa 1900 and targeted for demolition after falling into disrepair.

The council bill, presented March 25 for its public hearing and slated for a vote on April 8, would approve the redevelopment plan with a declaration of blight for the entire area, authorize a tax abatement within a section of the plan area and execute an agreement with the developer to begin redevelopment.

The plan consists of four separate projects. It would kick off with the Pacific South Project, which would build 72 townhomes starting immediately upon passage of the bill. Next would come the 540 Commercial Project, a new mixed-use residential, retail, restaurant and office building. The Missouri Hotel Project, a renovation of a historic hotel building, would follow. The final phase, slated to begin in summer 2025, is the Pacific North Project, new construction of a mixed-use development with 200-plus multifamily units.

According to an explanation of the bill by the city’s Planning and Development staff, the proposed tax abatement applies to only the first phase of the plan, the Pacific South Project Area. That project would receive 25 years of abatement, including 10 years of full abatement of real property taxes on the assessed valuation of improvements and increased assessed valuation of the land, followed by 15 years of 50% abatement.

Property tax abatements for the remaining project areas would either be subject to future amendments of the plan outlined in the council bill or would require separate redevelopment plans that would have to be approved by council.

The Pacific South redevelopment project alone is projected to collect an additional $1.2 million in property tax revenue over the 25-year period compared with the amount collected if the project does not occur, according to the report.

Council and public response
Councilmember Monica Horton expressed guarded enthusiasm for parts of the project as described, but she expressed concern about the bill linking all four parts of the project for blanket council approval.

“I really do see the potential for a substantial increase of residents, shoppers, tourists, employees and the like – additional businesses potentially coming,” she said. 

But Horton expressed caution about the structure of the redevelopment plan. She asked the developer’s representative, real estate attorney Shelby Wood of Spencer Fane LLP, if the three projects not included in the abatement measure would have separate development plans.

Wood said the plans are lengthy and complex, and having the ability to craft separate plans that incorporate key provisions of the initial plan would bring efficiency to latter steps of the process.  The Pacific South Project is located outside of the Commercial Street tax increment financing district, a fact that simplifies the tax abatement part of the project.

Councilmember Craig Hosmer said he’s concerned that buildings were allowed to slowly deteriorate while development was pending and while the developer was awaiting historic tax credit approval. He asked if the other buildings along the block would be preserved.

“I can’t say with absolute certainty that every single one will be saved, but the goal is to save as many as possible,” Wood said.

Eight representatives of Commercial Street and the Midtown neighborhood spoke during the public input portion of the meeting, with most saying they are in favor of the first phase of the plan, the Pacific South multifamily development.

Christine Schilling, a C-Street property owner, said the developer met with stakeholders and adapted some plans following input. She called it a great process and one she would like to repeat.

Schilling said she is in favor of the first phase of the project, but  has concerns about council approving the entire plan as presented in the bill, rather than considering each phase separately.

She added that she is also concerned for the maintenance and preservation of the historic structures on Commercial Street. 

“Rehabilitation is a funny word, and it doesn’t necessarily mean what it means in physical therapy,” she said. “It could very well mean destruction, and the fact that we cannot get a guarantee that we are going to be able to save the buildings in our existing historic district concerns me a great deal.”

Mary Collette, a Commercial Street business owner and president of the Commercial Club, said the development plan as submitted shows the five existing properties east of the Missouri Hotel would be demolished, a fact that highlights Schilling’s distinction between rehabilitation and restoration.

She also raised the concern that C-Street’s local and federal historic district could be subject to partial or full delisting with demolition of structures.

“I do support the concept of this development and hope that council encourages the developer to reach out to neighbors and stakeholders and to begin a conversation that allows all of us to contribute thoughtfully,” she said.

Horton said she would like to see the Pacific South phase move forward, and she would like to see the remaining three projects separated out and addressed individually.

“If City Council approves the entire redevelopment plan, it feels like tacit approval of the entire plan before we’ve gotten clearance on future phases,” she said.

 Other action items

  • Despite pleas at the March 11 meeting by members of a tenants’ rights organization to shift its support to housing, council approved a bill distributing the last of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act money to the Historic City Hall renovation and to upgrades of the Cooper and Killian Park sports facilities. Historic City Hall was allocated $534,000 and the parks were given $905,000. The measure passed 7-0 with Councilmember Heather Hardinger absent from the meeting and Brandon Jenson abstaining.
  • Two rezonings were approved: For applicant South Creek Development Corp., 4 acres at 3333 W. Battlefield were rezoned to general retail from residential single family, and for Ozarks Technical Community College, 4 acres in the area of East Pythian Street and North National Avenue were rezoned to government and industrial use from residential townhouse.
  • Council OK’d an agreement with U.S. Bank for banking services, including the city’s purchasing card program.
  • Council accepted a $120,000 appropriation from the Missouri General Assembly for maintenance and improvements to Hammons Field.

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