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Council clears the way for Brody Corners project 

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From a Springfield City Council perspective, the Brody Corners development saga came to a close Monday, with council voting to approve the project and an accompanying $3.4 million tax incentive. 

From a broader perspective, things are just getting started at the 28-acre property at the intersection of West Sunshine Street and the James River Freeway. Representing developer Mike Seitz of West Sunshine Development LLC, attorney Cory Collins of Husch Blackwell LLP told council at its Feb. 22 meeting that if they approved the project and tax incentive March 7, work would begin March 8, today. 

Council, whose membership stands at eight members with a vacancy in the Zone 1 seat, voted 7-0 in favor of both measures, with Craig Hosmer abstaining on each for unspecified reasons. 

Collins verified by email that the project is underway and should take a year to complete. 

“The process of transforming this blighted eyesore into a new commercial development has begun immediately as promised,” Collins said. The total cost of the project is $27 million, and $3.4 million, or 12%, is reimbursable through the approved tax increment financing plan. 

Costs that would be reimbursed through the TIF agreement include $2.4 million of an estimated $3 million in sitework expenses, $303,000 for off-site fresh water, $252,000 for off-site road work, $150,000 in professional fees and $300,000 in financing fees.  

The developer’s planned investment is $20.5 million in building costs, $1.8 million in land acquisition expenses and $700,000 in parking lot, lighting and signage fees that the developer will bear. According to Sarah Kerner, economic development director for the city, projected tax revenues with the redevelopment over 23 years are $8 million, but without redevelopment, taxes would bring in only $288,000. 

Councilperson Mike Schilling, who has criticized the city’s annexation of the polluted property that will be cleaned up for the development to proceed, expressed his support for the cleanup itself. 

“This is somewhat of a challenging proposal,” he said. “We’ve got to extend our water line and do some work on Sunshine [Street] out there near the intersection, some highway work to make it work, but basically, I see this as a needed reclamation/economic development project to get rid of that abandoned trailer court that’s been sitting there collecting trash for a number of years, and that needs to be done.” 

At a special meeting Dec. 6, Schilling was vocal about what he perceived as a lack of transparency from city staff before council agreed to annex the county property. Previous owner RLB Properties LLC, which is based in Brookline, had operated a trailer court on the site, but after its closure, the company left behind an open sewage lagoon that had leaked into sinkholes and contaminated area wells and drinking water, as well as pollution from illegal dumping, dilapidated structures, underground service lines in need of removal and concrete pads in poor condition, city officials say. The blighted condition was detailed in a report presented to council to support a vote declaring the property blighted and therefore eligible for a 23-year TIF plan for its new developer. 

Schilling stated at the time that if he had known the extent of the blight reported in the 201-page report, he would never have supported annexation.  

“It’s a hellish mess out there,” he said at the Dec. 6 meeting. “I don’t know why we took this pig in a poke anyway.” 

On Monday, Schilling said, “I hope if this is successful that it probably opens up some more development out that way, and I hope we can do that in a wise way so we avoid the pitfalls of sprawl and more drive-thru burger joints.” 

On Dec. 9, Springfield resident Linda Simkins filed a complaint to the Missouri attorney general about a potential Sunshine Law violation in notification of a TIF hearing, and this caused the developer to withdraw from the process and start over again with the same proposal. In February, the attorney general’s office told Springfield Business Journal the complaint remained under review. At the time the complaint was filed, a city spokesperson told SBJ the notice of the Brody Corners TIF hearing satisfied statutory requirements and was properly made. 

At the Feb. 22 council meeting, Collins told council the developer intends to clean up the site. 

“We bought it with this in mind,” he said. 

Collins also noted the development would bring public improvements to the area, like 3,200 feet of water line to serve all properties it fronts, as well as the extension of power lines. 

“As part of the construction process, utilities will be brought to the area which have not previously existed and are anticipated to spur additional growth,” Collins said. “The anticipated ripple effect of this development will greatly enhance the offerings in this far western portion of Springfield, and we are excited to work with future tenants and companies who are interested in locating within Brody Corners.” 

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