Once the dividing line for north and south Springfield, Commercial Street went from bustling to near death to thriving again.
The area traces its origins to when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad came to Springfield in 1870, bypassing Springfield and laying its tracks a mile north of the city into the new town of North Springfield, according to the Springfield-Greene County Library Web site. The new district that sprang up around the railroad depot was named “Commercial.”
The ties to the railroad made for a colorful reputation. Bars, hotels, retail shops and restaurants opened, catering to area residents, rail personnel and travelers. It became part of Springfield in 1887.
During the early 1960s, Springfield’s population began shifting south, ending the Commercial Street boom. The shift, along with a decline in rail travel, caused north Springfield to deteriorate and signs of urban blight to set in.
But Commercial Street was designated a local historic district in 1978 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, signifying a rebirth.
Since then, Commercial Street has become home to soup kitchens and homeless shelters such as The Kitchen, the Missouri Hotel and the Salvation Army, but it also boasts upscale loft apartments, antique shops, restaurants, a farmers market and the Frisco Days festival.
Askinosie Chocolate opened a factory on Commercial Street in 2005, and by July 2006, redevelopment of the historic district was in full swing. Big Momma’s Coffee & Espresso Bar opened its doors in 2007, and Pizza House relocated to Commercial Street in 2008, joining an eclectic mix of businesses built around live music, antiques and art.
In June 2007, city council began the process of adding a tax-increment financing district for the area.
The TIF district, approved in 2008, allows the collection of up to 50 percent of increased sales taxes resulting from redevelopment, along with 100 percent of the increase in property taxes, for up to 23 years.See the full list of pivotal points chosen by the Springfield Business Journal here.