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Springfield City Council has given the green light to Forward SGF.
SBJ file
Springfield City Council has given the green light to Forward SGF.

Council approves Forward SGF plan to guide city through 2040

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Forward SGF, the city of Springfield’s comprehensive plan for the next two decades, was approved by City Council at its meeting last night.

The plan, designed to guide the city’s growth and development through 2040, first was passed by the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission at a hearing held before the council meeting.

Randall Whitman, the city’s principal planner, told the commission the plan focuses on three areas in particular: community image, community health, and arts, culture and historic preservation.

There are at least 700 recommendations within the plan, Whitman said, and some of the work already was put in progress in anticipation of the plan’s passage. That work includes proposals for a housing study, a City Utilities-led transit study and a master plan for Lake Springfield.

“There’s a lot of things in motion that the comprehensive plan recommends that we’re already getting started on,” he said.

John Houseal, principal and co-founder of Forward SGF project consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates, who spoke to the Planning & Zoning Commission by video link, said the plan includes over 10,000 points of participation from community members, both in person and online. Since much of the planning happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, Houseal called the effort “a remarkable achievement.”

Houseal said a comprehensive plan is really a land use plan, and Forward SGF focuses on neighborhoods and the downtown area, as well as open spaces. It takes a place-based approach, as opposed to a use-based approach, and identifies 10 different place types that make up the city.

Houseal said certain corridors in the city likely would change quite a bit over the next two decades, and the plan identifies catalyst sites that are the most likely to be redeveloped.

Tim Rosenbury, director of quality of place initiatives for the city, said that throughout the public engagement and community input process, residents of the city spoke frequently of the importance of authenticity, being on brand and having deep connections to the locale.

“Ultimately, what we heard was a call for quality of place,” Rosenbury told the commission.

Rosenbury said quality of place is a concept that weaves through the entire plan, with a focus on complete neighborhoods and multimodal connections.

“Quality of place is in the end a test,” he said. “To summarize that test, for anything we initiate publicly or privately: How best can this initiative improve how our citizens experience place in our community?”

City Manager Jason Gage said Forward SGF is a quality plan based on quality input from the community. He also noted it is a long-term approach, and he compared the plan to a trip on an interstate.

“We may need to change lanes … but we do not want to exit,” he said. “If we can even do half of the things that are in this vision, this place will be transformed and be even better than it ever was.”

Brendan Griesemer, assistant planning and development director for the city, said the process was a holistic one, with over 1,500 participants attending 57 individual face-to-face workshops. At the largest event, more than 500 participants packed the ballroom at the University Plaza hotel.

Councilmember Matthew Simpson said the passage of the plan marked a historic day for the city, as well as something that will have positive effects for generations to come.

“Do we proactively embrace change … or do we react to it?” Simpson asked, noting communities that thrive are the ones that take a proactive approach.

Springfield Business Journal has been addressing the top 10 initiatives of the plan in an ongoing series of stories.

They include the following:

  1. Restore SGF – neighborhood revitalization 
  2. Place-based approach
  3. Comprehensive city code update
  4. Ungapping the city’s trail map
  5. Entrepreneurial stewardship
  6. Corridor improvements
  7. Neighborhood commercial hubs and planning
  8. Connecting to nature
  9. Growth and annexation plan 
  10. Regional planning and partnerships

The series will continue in future SBJ issues. 


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