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With some deliberation and a mixed vote, Springfield City Council approved a zoning request that would allow the Loose Goose coffee shop, bar and recreational venue to proceed as the first new commercial development on the Grant Avenue Parkway.
At issue with the plan was the decision by developer GDL Enterprises LLC to include a drive-thru for the coffee shop and package liquor sales in the $1 million development, which also will feature food trucks, indoor and outdoor seating, an outdoor walk-up bar, green space for yard games and pickleball courts, according to past reporting.
Council voted 6-3 to approve the rezoning of nearly 1.5 acres at 1015 S. Grant Ave. and 1012, 1020 and 1024 S. Douglas Ave. to planned development from the Grant Avenue Parkway District, a zoning status custom designed to establish parameters for the $26 million parkway project.
Voting against the measure were council members Mike Schilling, Craig Hosmer and Monica Horton. They expressed concerns that some aspects of the development were not in harmony with a multimodal parkway.
“I can’t support it because basically to me the drive-thru aspect brings an element of what I consider a potential of too much automotive invasion of what a parkway to me has a sound of – sort of a calming kind of place,” said Schilling. “With a drive-thru element with cars coming and going, we’ve got a lot of that in the city already, but for this particular project, I think it’s the least compatible to the nature and the letter and the spirit of the zoning here.”
One enthusiastic proponent of the development was Councilperson Richard Ollis, who pointed to the support of the West Central and Fassnight neighborhood associations.
“I really believe we’re getting hung up,” Ollis said. “There’ll be lots of pedestrian activity here – in fact, I think six pickleball courts are going to be created at this particular spot, so I’m really excited about this project.”
Ollis said he lives in Rountree, which has a popular mixed-use corner at Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street, and he believes the Loose Goose development could accomplish the same thing for the Grant Avenue Parkway.
“This is the anchor activity center that we need along the Grant Avenue Parkway,” he said. “Although it doesn’t meet the strict compliance of the plan, it certainly in spirit I think complies with the mixed-use component of the plan.”
Ollis also praised the development team, whom he called well-known and beloved operators in the town, with businesses like The Coffee Ethic, the Cherry Picker Package & Fare and The Golden Girl Rum Club.
“These are excellent, excellently run facilities,” he said. “I’m very excited about this project. I think this is just what we need to get the Grant Avenue Parkway started, off the ground, and build some excitement.”
Horton said she was initially in favor of the rezoning.
“At the first reading, I would have to admit that my kneejerk reaction was to go for the gusto with this proposed rezoning, but I’ve had some time to think more critically about what this … rezoning and subsequent development could mean for our city as we move forward with the previously adopted Grant Avenue Parkway plan, the comprehensive plan that we still have yet to approve and the accessibility of our city’s physical environment for all Springfieldians,” she said.
Horton said the city is poised to be a critical ally in efforts toward multimodal transportation equity. She said the GAP plan adopted in 2021 is designed to remove systemic barriers and increase access to pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly spaces with its use of traffic calming devices and its prohibition of drive-thru establishments.
She added the GAP plan and the proposed Forward SGF comprehensive plan seek to improve Americans with Disabilities Act-mandated access to public and private spaces for people with different abilities.
“As we move forward as a council and a community, we must learn to also use an equity framework in our decision-making to improve accessibility for all Springfieldians, with or without vehicular access,” Horton said.
The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously supported the zoning change, but city staff were opposed. Brendan Griesemer, the city’s assistant director of planning, said city staff felt the proposed development did not meet the intent of the plan.
The corridor plan and district zoning were approved by council in March 2021 after being developed with the help of city project consultant Crawford, Murphy & Tilly Inc. and Forward SGF comprehensive plan consultant Houseal Lavigne Associates.
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