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IDEA Commons plan awaits final financing

Now revised to $50-$55 million, the answer involves new market tax credits from the Treasury

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Last edited 1:44 p.m., Sept. 28, 2018

The next phase of IDEA Commons downtown is currently on pause while the public-private development parties finalize the last funding mechanism.

More than a year after officials with the city, The Vecino Group LLC and Missouri State University announced additional development plans, those involved with the roughly $50 million proposal say they’ve identified the final piece of funding.

“Everything should be in place minus the new market tax credits,” said Allen Kunkel, MSU’s associate vice president of economic development.
The latest phase of the now 10-year IDEA Commons development project calls for a four-story office and a separate four-story parking garage at the southeast corner of Boonville Avenue and Phelps Street, as well as expansion of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center.

The tax credits, a program of the U.S. Treasury Department, hinge upon partnerships with “community development entities” that Vecino Group is working to secure. Only CDEs can apply for the new market tax credits, according to the program’s website. 

“Now it’s a matter of tying together the final pieces to make it happen,” said Mat Burton, president of public private partnerships for The Vecino Group.

The total costs of the development are projected at $50-$55 million – revised from an original $45-$50 million estimate after factoring city stormwater and storm detention systems, among other costs, those involved said.

New ideas
The Treasury’s new market tax credits are designed to grow investments in highly distressed areas for economic development, according to the program’s website.

If the funding is realized, IDEA Commons would be the first to access the credits in Springfield, according to Treasury Department Community Development Financial Institutions data dating back to fiscal 2002.

If the new market tax credits are awarded, MSU would be in line for funding from the Missouri Development Finance Board.

After MUS applied for funding through the MDFB in August, the downtown project was offered $3.1 million in state tax credits and $6.1 million in loans, according to MDFB meeting minutes.

At the MDFB’s June meeting, Burton, MSU President Clif Smart and Springfield city Councilman Richard Ollis spoke in favor of the IDEA Commons project.

“We’ve been engaged with them for the last several months. It’s a constant back and forth getting to the finish line,” Burton said.

Ollis told the state board the city is committing $1.8 million for stormwater improvements and $1 million for streetscaping.

Ollis also said the city was looking into the use of state and federal tax increment financing programs for additional funding, according to the June meeting minutes.

Other speakers at the meeting were Doyle Edwards, Brewer Science Inc.’s director of communications and government programs; John Wanamaker, former BKD LLP managing partner; and Matt Morrow, president of the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce.

Both Edwards and Wanamaker voiced the need for more space at JVIC, while Morrow addressed the potential for the project to ignite other investment in the area, according to the minutes.

Brewer Science is a tenant of JVIC, while BKD operates its national headquarters downtown.

MDFB Chairwoman Marie Carmichael knows the IDEA Commons project well. She resides in Springfield and practices law in the city.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to leverage investment in a blighted area,” she said after the meeting.

What’s in store
The Vecino Group would own the new 100,000 square-foot office building planned for the intersection of Boonville Avenue and Phelps Street. In early project renderings, a small greenway space is nestled between the office building to the north and the parking garage to the south across from JVIC. The site is currently a parking lot for the efactory.

“We’re hoping next fall to start construction,” Kunkel said on the IDEA Commons addition.

The construction timeline is scheduled to take 12-18 months. Kunkel oversees the facility needs of JVIC.

“We’re still pretty much on target for the original,” Kunkel said, noting there has been about a three-month snag while the financing is lined up.

The Vecino Group is working on schematic designs with MSU to add 30,000 square feet to JVIC, Burton said.

He said designs could be amended to fit the needs of the selected tenants.

The new office building would be rented out by The Vecino Group, which is actively working with a couple potential tenants, Burton said.

The IDEA Commons development sits on 88 acres owned by MSU.

The first piece of the development was the opening of JVIC in 2007 after a three-year, $22 million renovation of the former MFA mill complex on Boonville Avenue, according to past SBJ reporting.

Following that, the project further developed with the sale of five center city properties to MSU in 2008. After five years of planning and development, the Robert W. Plaster Center for Free Enterprise and Business Development and the efactory opened in 2013 at 405 N. Jefferson Ave. along with Brick City West Gallery at 215 W. Mill St.


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