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Economic Development Outlook: Mary Lilly Smith

City of Springfield Director of Planning and Development

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Spending more than 35 years in the city’s planning and development department, Mary Lilly Smith has seen the evolution of Springfield firsthand.

2020 Projection: Quality of place is going to become a big factor in economic development.

SBJ: What are some prime areas of development for 2020?
Smith: We’re seeing a lot of retail development out on the west side, so I think West Republic Road will continue to see development. There’s a lot of rooftops out in that area and that always drives some retail and commercial development. West Sunshine with the Springfield Plaza continues to get built out with some new retailers. We just had a zoning case for the northeast corner of Battlefield and [Highway] 65, so really happy to see that area finally start to get some development. That’s going to be more of a commercial office area. We’re hopeful with the IDEA Commons project with Missouri State [University] that that’s going to spur some additional development. There’re still a few spots down in Galloway [Village]. Galloway is a really hot area.

SBJ: What are some hurdles you see for economic development within city limits?
Smith: There really is a lack of available land in Springfield. There are not a lot of large development sites left, and those that are left have difficulties. Battlefield and 65 has been zoned for commercial use for well over a decade and the original zoning required a lot of public improvements associated with the interchange. There are problems with the development that make it more difficult, so people naturally go to where it’s easier to develop. Part of our concern in Springfield is the easy sites have been done, so how do we facilitate those difficult sites? From trying to attract office users, the lack of available office space is an issue, particularly office space that has a large floor plate. That’s one of the reasons why we’re so interested in seeing this IDEA Commons project because it will have a relatively large floor plate, somewhere in the 18,000-25,000 square feet range, which is great for a single user to all be on one floor.

SBJ: What legislative issues are you working on that could influence economic development?
Smith: We’ve talked about it last year and we’ve begun those conversations with our state legislators this year about getting the authorization to increase our hotel-motel tax. State legislation generally caps communities at 5% on a hotel-motel tax. St. Louis and Kansas City have the ability to go above that, so we would also like to have the ability to go above that. If we are able to get that through the state, it is simply enabling legislation that says Springfield can go to voters and ask them. That’s a really important initiative this year for us because the hotel-motel tax can obviously fund projects like a convention center. It also could be used potentially for some sort of tourism or sports facility, like a tournament sports facility or improvements to existing facilities. The ability to collect internet sales tax, the Wayfair decision, is another legislative opportunity for us. We’ll be continuing to push for that. Our big desire is being sure we’re protecting the folks who are working in brick-and-mortar stores here.

SBJ: Where do you think economic development can improve in 2020?
Smith: I think that we improve from a placemaking perspective, and that is an economic development issue.

With Forward SGF, we have just gone through this initial process of asking people what they feel like are the top issues facing the community. We’ll be releasing that report in January. We had over 5,000 participate. We had 50 workshops. Some of those were large, over 100 people. Some of those were five people. One of the themes that came out of that is that people don’t think Springfield is that attractive. From the discussions, there were things like we don’t have a lot of landscaping, we don’t do a good job of taking care of public right of way, whether that’s city right of way or (Missouri Department of Transportation) right of way. Power lines came up; signage came up.

The overall impression of the community needs to be improved. I think that placemaking is going to be an opportunity.

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