Springfield City Council last night unanimously voted to establish an overlay zoning district for the Grant Avenue Parkway project.
Council additionally approved the rezoning of roughly 72 acres, which comprise more than 220 parcels, into the new zoning district.
City officials previously told council the zoning district has six subdistricts and housing is allowed in all of them. Use is regulated by design, property limitations and location. Parking is not allowed in front yards and is not required for nonresidential uses. Detached signs are allowed in limited areas and construction of commercial parking lots won’t be allowed anywhere other than subdistrict A, which is an area south of College Street and north of Pershing Street.
City staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission previously recommended both bills for passage, according to city documents.
“I’m very supportive of this project,” councilperson Richard Ollis said at the meeting. “I’m also supportive of the overlay district requiring more stringent standards. That’s going to be a good, positive thing.”
The zoning district creation comes three months after the Grant Avenue Parkway Corridor Plan was adopted by council as part of the city’s comprehensive plan.
City officials said the corridor plan area covers roughly 1.3 miles of Grant Avenue between College and Catalpa streets. That includes areas within 500 feet east and west of the Grant Avenue centerline.
The Grant Avenue Parkway 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.
A blight study idea suggested at council’s June 14 meeting by Andrew Doolittle, co-owner of property management company Everett Homes LLC, appears to be gaining traction. Doolittle said if the city issued the study for the Grant Avenue area, it could incentivize better development projects, as opposed to “spot blighting,” according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
Ollis said he’s interested in sponsoring a bill to authorize the blight study. Its proposed cost wasn’t noted during the meeting, and city officials didn’t return messages by deadline. Springfield Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner told council at its June 14 meeting the city spent roughly $100,000 for its last blight study in 2017 for a Kearney Street corridor plan.
“Frankly, we’re asking whoever decides to develop in this area to develop to a higher standard, both architecturally and with the design standards we have in place,” Ollis said. “I think it’s only appropriate we at least take a look at this and consider what that might entail.”
City Manager Jason Gage said the blight study could be valuable for future Grant Avenue developments.
“It’s a bigger area and it’s about a bigger impact,” he said. “There may be some advantages to eliminating that question out of each parcel and already having that laid out.”
The Grant Avenue Parkway project’s total funding is $26.2 million, comprising a $21 million federal grant announced in 2019 and $5.2 million in matching funds from the city. Construction is expected to begin in 2022 with completion estimated in 2026.
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