David O’Reilly said he looks forward to soon seeing infrastructure upgrades begin at Southern Hills Shopping Center, located in the 2900 block of East Sunshine Street.
“It’s pretty exciting because it’s such a major improvement there on East Sunshine,” he said.
O’Reilly, one of the owners of the development through Southern Hills Investment Trust LLC, said the trust bought the shopping center 22 years ago from the late developer John Q. Hammons.
“Now we’re to the point where we can maybe reinvest and do some capital expenditures, which are desperately needed,” he said.
Southern Hills Investment Trust on June 14 filed a petition to establish a transportation development district to pay for improvements to the shopping center. Southern Hills Plaza LLC, represented by developer Curtis Jared, was co-petitioner.
Respondents in the filing were the Missouri State Highways and Transportation Commission and the city of Springfield.
Planned work carries a price tag of $2.9 million, to be funded through an eighth-cent retail sales tax applied by businesses in the district for a period not to exceed 40 years, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
O’Reilly said Snyder Construction Group LLC, which is handling work for the trust, is ready to begin.
“The permit process is well underway,” O’Reilly said in an interview Friday. “We had a few tweaks to make – you always do when they evaluate your plans – but that’s been done, and we resubmitted a week or so ago. We’re actually expecting a permit right away, this week or next.”
The city asked for new sidewalks to be included in the plan, O’Reilly said.
Infrastructure work is on hold until the city and state respond to the petition on file.
According to the filing, the Southern Hills project aims to construct new connections to public roads, provide stormwater improvements, construct sidewalks and build new driveways and parking lots. The filing also provides for grading, signing, lighting, traffic signals and related infrastructure.
O’Reilly said the project will provide a facelift to the shopping center, with improvement to lighting, storefronts, doors, windows, roofing and fascia. Sidewalks in front of the stores will also be widened for improved accessibility.
“It will look like a brand-new center when we’re through,” he said.
O’Reilly said the city suggested to the center’s owners to petition for a TDD instead of the more common community improvement district. There are only three TDDs on file with the state for Springfield: College Station, the Heer’s building and the East-West Arterial covering Evans Road west of Highway 65.
A TDD is filed in the municipal court, rather than going through a city council for approval.
“There’s still a board established that runs the district and manages it and makes sure the collections and payments and all are taken care of,” O’Reilly said.
While the process is different, O’Reilly said the result is similar.
Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway has spoken out against TDDs, calling them a form of taxation without representation. She has said voters do not vote on TDDs, and there is little transparency to the process.
O’Reilly said he disagrees with those viewpoints.
“It’s a win-win for the community and the businesses located there,” he said. “It’s not a tax-and-spend by the city. The people who use the facility have a slight increase in taxes, and they can choose to shop there or not shop there.”
He said if the shopping center is not attractive, customers will choose to shop elsewhere.
“We love our customer base,” he said. “It’s a very democratic process as far as I’m concerned. It doesn’t ask taxpayers who don’t benefit to pay for it, but it does clearly benefit the surrounding area.”
He added he is in favor of special taxing districts in areas where there are commercial operations.
“There will be a forever debate on these types of projects,” he said. “When they’re done reasonably, rationally and fairly, it helps the whole community.”
He added that the process is very comprehensive and critical.
“It’s not a slam dunk ever,” he said. “There’s a lot of planning and documentation of what’s going to be done and what isn’t going to be done. The process is much more protective and fair-minded than maybe some people who take shots at them realize because they may not understand the process that’s involved.”
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