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The city is exploring the idea of a form-based code zoning district in the IDEA Commons.
The city is exploring the idea of a form-based code zoning district in the IDEA Commons.

City explores first form-based zoning district

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The city of Springfield is generating ideas for IDEA Commons.

On Aug. 31, the city began a series of public and design sessions to explore the idea of a form-based code zoning district in the 88-acre IDEA Commons, which aims to meld innovation, design, entrepreneurship and arts. The goal is to use zoning guidelines to encourage an urban area that would draw more people to live and work within the district. Ultimately, different form-based code districts could be applied across the city to promote certain uses for different areas.

“Currently, our zoning codes are land-based codes, so you can do what you want within the boundaries of that property in the zoning district. You put the building where you want it on the property, you put the parking lot where you want it,” said Bruce Adib-Yazdi, architect and principal at Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc., whose firm hosted the design sessions. “With form-based code, the architectural form of the building is integrated within the zoning district. A form-based code will tell you on this block, this side of the street has to have the building right up to the property line, it has to be a minimum of this many stories.”

By including certain design guidelines within a district’s zoning code, city planners can encourage certain activities within the area. For example, Ralph Rognstad Jr., the city’s director of planning and development, said a rule of thumb to promote a bus service with buses stopping every 10 to 15 minutes is to have between 12 and 15 residential units per acre along the route. One requirement in a form-based code, then, could be that on a certain block, each building must have more than one story with residential units on upper floors. Other requirements could promote walking and bicycling, or an area that is used for business, shopping and living.

The initiative, led by the city’s planning and development department, includes a weeklong IDEA Commons charette, or brainstorming session, between multiple stakeholders and architects.
Stakeholders include Missouri State University, Jordan Valley Health Center, the city of Springfield,
Drury University, Ozarks Technical Community College and Urban Districts Alliance, Adib-Yazdi said. Architects involved included Adib-Yazdi and Tim Rosenbury of BRP, Andrew Wells of Dake
Wells Architecture Inc., Eric McCune and Lisa Drew-Alton of Sapp Design Associates Architects PC and Jay Garrott of Drury University and a class from its Hammons School of Architecture.

“Each architect is leading a team, and each team is working on individual parcels or blocks within IDEA Commons,” Adib-Yazdi said. “The teams are designing certain blocks identified by the city based on form-based code guidelines. … They’re purely conceptual and not based on private development realities.”

IDEA Commons lends itself well to experimenting with form-based code because it’s an urban area where the city would like to promote redevelopment, Rognstad said.

“IDEA Commons is Missouri State’s vision for the area in terms of trying to make it attractive to a variety of people,” said Allen Kunkel, associate vice president of economic development at Missouri State University. “The charette is the city’s effort to kind of develop a plan around that.”

Rognstad said the hope is to get public input on what people are interested in seeing, and write that into the design code. The next steps could include drafting actual code and discussing the potential for adopting it.

Should that happen, he noted that it would be adopted as an overlay district, so property owners would have a choice on whether to conform to the new code.

Adib-Yazdi said the form-based code experiment is a good start toward preparing for an expected population surge in Springfield that could have 40,000 more people living and working downtown by 2050.

“The code would kind of guarantee that anyone that develops next door would have to follow that same level of development,” he said. “Some architects may say that’s taking away design control.
I would say it’s simply the way urban fabric works.”

A public review of architectural designs was scheduled during the Sept. 3 First Friday Art Walk. The
concluding session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at 319 N. Main Ave.[[In-content Ad]]

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