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City Beat: Victory Mission proposes $7M shelter rebuild

Council is set to vote Jan. 25 on the organization's rezoning request

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Springfield Victory Mission Inc. plans to rebuild its men’s shelter near Commercial Street but needs city approval of a rezoning request to start the project.

City Council is considering the nonprofit’s request to rezone nearly 2 acres at 1610 N. Broadway Ave. and 1701 N. Irving Ave. from highway commercial to a planned development. Victory Mission intends to redevelop its shelter, dubbed Victory Square, into a new two-story, 35,000-square-foot building north of its existing one, as well as add three duplex apartments on the southern half of the property. Plans were presented at council’s meeting Jan. 11.

Executive Director Jason Hynson said after the meeting the first-phase shelter project is expected to cost around $6.5 million. The duplexes would come in a second phase, costing roughly $500,000. If the rezoning is approved, the project has no set start date and would take around a year to complete, according to nonprofit officials. The existing shelter would remain operational until the new building is complete. It would then be demolished to make room for additional parking.

Victory Mission officials say the current building, used since 2001 as both a 50-bed overnight shelter and 110-bed transitional service center, operates in an outdated and obsolete former nursing home. It sits west of historic C-Street, between Commercial and Division streets. Highway commercial zoning ordinance amendments made by council in 2013 require a conditional use permit within 500 feet of a residential district, and they prohibit uses within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, according to city documents.

The shelter is within 500 feet of a residential district and 700 feet from Weaver Elementary School, preventing Victory Mission from remodeling or enlarging the current building without a zoning change, said city Planning and Development Director Mary Lilly Smith. A zoning change to a planned development would allow the proposed uses – in this case, a shelter rebuild – to locate within the distance limitations, she said.

Jared Davis of project engineer Anderson Engineering Inc. told council Victory Mission doesn’t plan to change the intensity or scope of services provided.

“The services they are providing and the number of beds and everything else is staying the same as their current operation,” Davis said.

“The building they are in does not allow them the ability to upgrade.”

Councilperson Phyllis Ferguson said she hears from residents in the nearby Grant Beach Park area about concerns of shelter occupants roaming the streets of the neighborhood during the daytime. Hynson said the new shelter plans include a half-gym where Victory Mission can run programming and classes. It also will have an increased staff presence. Additionally, residents are able to stay inside during the day, a change from the prior policy of all men needing to be out of the shelter between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. The policy was ended amid the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“We realize we want to be better neighbors,” Hynson said, adding the nonprofit has college students volunteering to pick up trash weekly in the neighborhood. “We’re going to be more intentional with that.”

Hynson also addressed council questions about screening processes at the shelter, noting all occupants have to provide photo identification and are screened for crimes on public sex offender registries and the Case.net online management system. A licensed professional counselor also is on staff to help with mental health screenings, he said.

Victory Mission’s rezoning request was unanimously approved last month by the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. Council is expected to vote on the measure Jan. 25.

Further delayed
Council approved a city staff-requested extension of a 180-day administrative delay for the Grant Avenue Parkway project. The administrative delay, which council originally approved in the summer, was extended another 180 days and is now set to expire July 22.

The project is designed to create a greenway trail system and transportation improvements along a 3.3-mile stretch of Grant Avenue between Sunshine and Walnut streets. The city was awarded $21 million in federal grant funding for the project in 2019, and it’s required to provide roughly $5.2 million in matching funds. Grant provisions call for the parkway to be complete by 2026.

Tim Rosenbury, Springfield’s director of quality of place initiatives, said more time was needed to gather input on the project’s design concept and corridor plan. Four virtual workshops for the project visioning phase were held in September, as well as a three-hour segmented virtual concept development event in November. Around 1,500 individuals directly engaged with the city through the events, and he said staff will be seeking more feedback in February to gather a more refined concept.

“We don’t want to have to come back to you for another extension, and I don’t think you want us to,” Rosenbury said.

CVB update
Tracy Kimberlin, president and CEO of the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau Inc., provided council with an update on hotel tax revenue. It was down $500,000 for fiscal 2020, ending in June, and it’s expected to decline another $800,000 this fiscal year, he said.

“Total room tax revenue during the course of the pandemic will probably be off somewhere close to $2 million,” he said, projecting recovery from the coronavirus pandemic will be slower than hoped in the travel industry.

The CVB received over $1.6 million in a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act grant via the Missouri Division of Tourism, which increased the local agency’s revenue budget to nearly $4.8 million for the fiscal year. As a result, Kimberlin requested the city enter into an addendum to the annual agreement with the CVB, which council approved last summer. It will amend the city budget by the CARES Act sum to reflect current and projected operational changes.

“Our intent is to run a $1.6 million advertising campaign in this fiscal year to try and jumpstart the travel economy and get the hotel and travel industry back up and going as soon as it is possible to do that,” Kimberlin said, noting the CARES Act money was designated for advertising purposes.

A council vote on the bill is slated for Jan. 25.

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