The city of Springfield has taken the first step in a long-discussed project that would daylight Jordan Creek and potentially spur economic activity downtown.
Last month, city officials issued a request for qualifications for engineering and architecture firms to submit proposals by July 15 for the phase of Renew Jordan Creek that runs from Main to Boonville avenues.
The multiphase project will “daylight” Jordan Creek by removing concrete box culverts that cover the downtown waterway and modifying the existing floodplain and floodway areas, according to a city news release.
Kirkland Preston, project manager with the Department of Public Works, said the main goal is to reduce the Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain. However, he said it’s also expected to revitalize the two-block stretch downtown and lead to economic development. The project is bordered on the east by Boonville Avenue, Water Street on the south, Main Avenue on the west and Mill Street on the north.
Tim Rosenbury, the city’s director of quality of place initiatives, said Renew Jordan Creek is a key project for Springfield’s placemaking priority in the latest 20-year plan, dubbed Forward SGF.
“We’re talking about transforming this area into a civic asset that makes life in Springfield better,” he said.
Rosenbury said the project scope includes building a public space along the creek that’s roughly four-times the size of the nearby Park Central Square.
“These kind of open spaces in urban areas really fulfill a need for people to get out of their workspace and get into a shared public space,” he said. “I think this is going to become more and more important as we become aware of the need for social distancing, for providing places outdoors for people to meet that’s healthier than meeting indoors.”
He said economic development is likely to happen on city-owned property north and south of the project. Rosenbury said no one has expressed interest yet in the property, but opportunities for development will either be a public-private partnership or through property acquisition.
Rosenbury said the daylighting project is an integral piece of two other placemaking initiatives: a planned pedestrian and bicycle pathway along Grant Avenue from downtown to Bass Pro Shops and Missouri State University’s expanded IDEA Commons, just east of the Renew Jordan Creek project.
Rosenbury said the city is looking for three key qualities in the project team: hydrological engineering skills, a creative and visionary urban designer, and project management experience.
“My guess is, we will be considering teams that are a combination of local firms and national experts. I’m thinking the strengths we’re looking for will probably require most firms that are interested to form teams that can check all the boxes,” he said.
Preston said the team also will need to create a “functional, yet beautiful” stormwater solution because it’s intended to be a public green space.
According to the RFQ, the project also is expected to be delivered through a construction manager at risk agreement with a construction manager selected once the design process is complete.
Rosenbury said the city is reviewing multiple funding sources, and a budget has yet to be set. Some money, however, is set to come from an Environmental Protection Agency grant, according to the RFQ.
The project is slated to take several years and likely will be completed by 2024, Rosenbury said.
Kristen Milam, communication coordinator for the city, said no timelines have been set for the additional phases of the project.
Renew Jordan Creek is expected to bring the city of Springfield back to its roots.
“This two-block stretch is just one more piece of Jordan Valley Park, but the significance is that we are returning to the water. We are returning to the source that made Springfield a great place to settle in the early 19th century and we’re recognizing the features that led to our founding,” said Rosenbury.
In 1830, Springfield founder John Polk Campbell settled along the banks of the Jordan Creek with his family, according to the city’s website. Years later, settlers began to use the stream as a garage dump and the stream would overflow and flood Jordan Valley. In the 1930s, the creek was enclosed with box culverts two-thirds of a mile long to help with the flooding, according to the website.
The Jordan Creek has been listed on the Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ list of impaired waters since 2014 because of chemicals in the stream sediment.
Rosenbury said the revitalization of Jordan Creek won’t lead to a development anywhere near the scale of the San Antonio River Walk or the Bricktown Canal in Oklahoma City because the creek typically flows one cubic yard per second. He said it won’t be able to cater to much water activity, and he noted the city isn’t modeling projects from other cities.
Officials want to create a project unique to the Ozarks.
“It’s that classic Ozark stream that, at certain times, after a rainstorm will surge enormously and then within a few hours, it’s back down to something quite tame. That’s going to be one of the major design criteria for this project,” Rosenbury said. “I’m hoping from that very problem comes something very unique, very interesting and very Springfield.”
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