After almost a year of planning, city staff presented the Renew Jordan Creek master plan to Springfield City Council during a luncheon on June 1.
The plan was developed by Olsson Inc. after a series of public comment periods to gather what residents wanted in an urban park designed around Jordan Creek.
While one goal of the plan is placemaking and attracting new amenities downtown, the primary goal of Renew Jordan Creek is flood mitigation and stormwater improvements, along with daylighting the creek, or bringing it to the surface, said Olsson project manager Jared Rasmussen.
The first phase, estimated at $7 million, is funded through Springfield’s level property tax, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Construction is anticipated to begin in late summer 2022.
The primary Renew Jordan Creek site is between Boonville and Main avenues, from east to west, and Mill and Water streets, north to south. Campbell Avenue runs through the middle, and Missouri State University’s Brick City is on the northern edge across Mill Street.
The area is flood-prone, and officials say planned improvements would allow the creek to be regulated as it passes through downtown.
“One of the main goals of this project is to try to get these flood elevations down to where the buildings adjacent in the downtown area are below the base flood elevation of a 100-year flow,” Rasmussen said. “That’s what we’re working toward.”
At its regular meeting on June 1, council approved the purchase of 237 W. Mill St. and 353 N. Campbell Ave. for about $991,000. The sites are currently parking lots owned by Missouri State University and make up the main Renew Jordan Creek site.
The plan also proposes improvements at Founders Park and further west at 404 N. Jefferson Ave., a 3.44-acre property also recently purchased by the city.
At the main site, Olsson’s master plan proposes a mixed-use, urban park including outdoor gathering spaces, park shelters, pavilions, food trucks, overlook porches, an event space, a dog park and potential commercial space, said assistant project manager Cody Peratt.
“Along Mill Street, we envision this great tree-canopy plaza space, really keeping everything visually permeable from Mill Street looking in, being able to see everything and feeling like you’re in this urban park setting,” Peratt said.
The east side of the property, between Campbell and Boonville, is designed with more urban amenities, allowing the creek to daylight from the east side and flow west through a collection of developed spaces. The design includes an area of potential commercial development near the corner of Mill and Boonville.
The plan also proposes ending Water Street halfway through the space to allow more room for the developed amenities around the perimeter, Peratt said. On the east side, creek access isn’t the priority, but rather enjoying the amenities around it.
To the west, between Campbell and Main, the site would open up into a greenspace with room for the creek banks to extend out when needed due to high water levels.
Stone crossings for pedestrians would span the creek, and the west side would provide open access to the creek.
At the 404 N. Jefferson Ave. site, which was formerly a Meek’s Lumber Co. warehouse, the plan proposes another urban outdoor area with more access to the daylighted Jordan Creek. The exposed creek would be wider through this property.
“This site allows us to capture and treat and maintain additional volumes of water to prevent further downstream flooding,” Peratt said.
At the former lumber yard, potential elements include a park pavilion, overwater decks and park shelters. The plan proposes the existing 27,000-square-foot building be renovated and turned into a flexible commercial space with a rooftop area and space for outdoor pickleball courts and other yard games.
The plan also proposes space for a restaurant or brewery at the corner of Phelps Street and Jefferson Avenue, although the space could be used for any commercial venture, Peratt said.
In between the two sites, the plan also proposes a revamp of Founders Park, at Water and Jefferson. The new Founders Park would include a covered amphitheater on the far west end near Robertson Avenue, a water feature in the center to tie it to Jordan Creek, and other public amenities. Proposed uses include a children’s play area and civic plaza.
Some existing elements at Founders Park such as vegetation and concrete would remain.
Overall, the Renew Jordan Creek plan presents an opportunity for key linkage of the city’s downtown Greenway trails and other downtown amenities, said Olsson project planner Ken Boone.
The idea behind the amenities at each location is that they offer different but complimentary options, encouraging travel among the sites.
“Each one of these sites doesn’t have to be everything for everybody,” Boone said. “This allows you to create this desire to move. I want to go do this here, and I can do this here. We don’t have to accommodate playfields here, because they’re located in a different part of our community.”
Boone said the master plan provides a lot of options for the spaces around Jordan Creek to create a larger experience of the whole area.
“We’ve left a lot of room for multiple things to happen at the same time,” he said. “If you give people these breadcrumbs, and give them a reason to go, you can string that experience along.”
Now that the master plan is complete, Olsson representatives will take comments and suggestions from council and city staff on the plan and incorporate any suggested changes. Then another period of public comment will open.
A virtual public open house will be available at RenewJordanCreek.com June 7-13. A public information session is scheduled June 9 at 6 p.m. via the website and streamed on the city’s Facebook page.
Once public comment is collected, the master plan will go through another stage of refinement before the project can move into an official design phase, Boone said. Once it begins, the project will be done in multiple phases.
“This is a phased project for your community, for you, to realize the vision your community has put forward. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take phases, and it’s going to take several rounds of deciding you want to spend money on things,” Boone said. “Let’s take the time for it to be spectacular, because the vision your community put together and said they wanted is fantastic. It is a destination unlike any other in your community.”
New city budget
Springfield City Council is also close to adopting the city’s fiscal 2022 budget.
During council’s meeting on June 1, Finance Director David Holtmann proposed a $394.6 million annual budget – an increase of about 7% from the previous year.
“Priorities that were used in creating the proposed budget were employee recruitment and retention, public safety, fiscal sustainability and quality of place,” Holtmann said.
The city is anticipating ending the current fiscal year with higher-than-projected revenues. Officials expect $47.7 million in sales and use tax collections by June 30, roughly $3.4 million above budget.
“We’re expecting revenue to be about 6% above budget, because the COVID impact was not as severe as we had anticipated,” Holtmann said. “Sales and use tax have been performing as they were pre-pandemic.”
For the fiscal 2022 budget, city officials anticipate further growth, with projected sales and use tax revenue at $49 million and general fund revenue of $89.1 million. The special revenue fund is projected at $129 million, and revenue from projected enterprise funds is $96 million, according to city documents.
The proposed budget includes 1,960 full-time or full-time equivalent positions, an increase of 45 employees from the fiscal 2021 budget.
City departments submitted $6.5 million in budget requests, including $3.3 million for ongoing costs, according to past reporting. The proposed budget funds approximately $2 million in one-time requests.
Once adopted, the budget goes into effect July 1, 2021. Council is slated to vote on the ordinance June 14.
Also at the June 14 meeting, council is set to vote on setting a preliminary tax levy on real and personal property.
Holtmann said city charter requires the preliminary tax levy to be set in conjunction with the budget each year. The actual levy will be set in August, after the city receives final tax valuation numbers from Greene County.
The 2020 final valuation was $3.2 billion, Holtmann said, and the city is assuming a 3% increase, bringing the total to almost $3.3 billion.
Holtmann said the projected rate is the same as the current year at 62 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This will generate roughly $542,000 in additional property tax dollars, which go toward city programs including the Springfield Art Museum, Springfield-Greene County Health Department and city parks, Holtmann said.
The levy may be adjusted by the Missouri State auditor’s office in August.
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