Springfield’s east side could see a dramatic revitalization over the next three years, according to representatives of businesses, churches, nonprofits and government bodies who met to discuss redevelopment plans last week.
The East Springfield Summit featured a consortium of familiar names in Springfield – the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, The Springfield Project, Mayor Frank Edwards, the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and more – who gathered Jan. 19 at Union Baptist Church in Springfield.
“I’ve never seen a collected effort or a concerted effort such as this be sustained for so long in terms of minority inclusion and doing development in east Springfield,” said Tim Rowles, director of The Springfield Project. Rowles said TSP’s microloans program has given 30 small loans of between $1,000 and $3,000 to people who want to start businesses on Springfield’s east side, with more loans planned.
Sue Massie, president of Massie, Massie and Associates landscape design firm in Springfield, unveiled plans for a new neighborhood bounded by Cook Street, South Grand Avenue, 11th Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. This 49-square-block area, named the Hope Neighborhood, currently contains 220 vacant houses, 85 of which are boarded up. Massie’s firm and TSP-Hope, a spinoff of The Springfield Project, are planning a redevelopment of the neighborhood to include new parks and homes on larger property tracts, as well as a slight expansion of businesses in the area and enhancements to Feitshans Academy.
Ron Fafoglia, executive director of TSP-Hope, says the organization is already working with about 40 to 50 families to secure financing for homes in the area, while Rowles says it is important that housing in the area be affordable.
“This is important, because I think we don’t need to price people out of the neighborhood, folks who are already living there,” Rowles says. “For example, you’ve got somebody who’s been living there 40, 50 years on a fixed income. We can’t price them out, but we can come up with funding sources to help them improve their homes at no cost to them.”
The Rev. T. Ray McJunkins, pastor of Union Baptist Church and a member of the Springfield-based Faith Coalition of the Common Good, says one of the coalition’s main goals is job development for minorities and women, especially in connection with the proposed rail expansion project currently under study. The coalition is working to ensure that project creates positive effects for the city’s east side.
Terry Beiter, associate director at St. Louis-based PGAV Planners, outlined plans for commercial redevelopment near where Cook Street and South Grand Avenue intersect with Dirksen Parkway in Springfield. That irregularly-shaped area contains mostly commercial and industrial buildings such as J.C. Penney, and the area is ripe for a business “facelift”, Beiter says. That is still in the research stage.
“We believe very firmly and very strongly that community engagement is critical to any planning process,” he says. “As we get started in the work we’re doing, it’s important to let you know, as members of this community, that we will be knocking at some of your doors to get your input in the work that we do.”
Bill Logan, former director of the Springfield Housing Authority and a consultant with Logan Gray, Inc., says many questions concerning redevelopment plans have yet to be answered, including how it will be funded.
“Obviously, we don’t have even the money to do the programs just yet,” Logan said. “We’ve got to create those sources – private dollars, grants, what have you. We have creative ideas to come up with a way to answer all those questions. … We don’t have all the answers, but we have started the process.”
Contact Patrick Yeagle at firstname.lastname@example.org.