In the last six months, city officials have worked on ideas to restore what’s been lost on Kearney Street over the past three decades.
Last November, the city invested $100,000 to commission St. Louis-based Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc. for a corridor study of the heart of Kearney Street – the 5.5 miles between Kansas Expressway and Glenstone Avenue.
“Back in the 1970s and ’80s, (Kearney Street) was a big deal. People remember it fondly,” said Sarah Kerner, the city’s interim economic development director. “It ties together some neat strands of Springfield history.”
City officials are hoping that nostalgia will influence the future.
The efforts culminated last month with consultant PGAV’s 43-slide presentation during Springfield City Council’s April 25 lunch meeting. Among the key findings in the Kearney Street corridor study is the potential to capture additional retail sales of up to $95 million in unmet household demand in the trade value area.
Jenny Ryan, project manager at PGAV, said residents simply are going elsewhere to shop.
“The retail analysis we conducted showed that people want more clothing stores there. Based on what’s happening in the national retail market, Ross and T.J. Maxx, and other stores like that are doing pretty well,” Ryan said. “People are looking for bargains. They want to stretch their dollars.”
Ryan noted the only clothing store along the corridor was the Wal-Mart Supercenter at Kearney and Glenstone.
PGAV also suggested the vacant Holiday Lanes Bowling Alley, 1027 W. Kearney St., is a good candidate for a food hall concept that could serve as a food business incubator.
“The idea is something we’ve seen happen across the country. Cities have taken factories and other large spaces and they’ve adapted them to fit differently,” Ryan said. “It’s one space for people to come and eat, and get groceries. The bowling alley seems like the right footprint.”
ALL IN ONE: Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc.’s study includes a recommendation for a combined grocery and eatery space.
Rendering provided by PECKHAM GUYTON ALBERS & VIETS INC.
The 1960-built Holiday Lanes closed in 2015, and at 77,402 square feet, it’s listed for sale for $650,000 by R.B. Murray Co. Sales and leasing associate Mitchell Jenkins said the property is under contract with an undisclosed party.
“Over the last six months, the interest really picked up quite a bit,” Jenkins said of the Holiday Lanes property.
Prior to the offer being made, he said the property had been shown to prospective buyers three or four times in the same month.
Next door, PGAV recommends a food truck court where Ye Old Buggy Bath car wash operates. Springfield already has SGF Mobile Food Park at 836 N. Glenstone Ave. for food trucks including London Calling Pasty Co., Chef Baldee’s Pizza and Momma Mary’s Navajo Tacos.
“We know Springfield has a food truck court already, but we think the community can support more than one. It’s not too expensive,” Ryan said, noting a food truck court wouldn’t have to take up the space all the time, especially in the winter.
In addition, PGAV proposed placemaking strategies to improve the corridor’s visual appeal and increase safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
“There aren’t that many traffic lights, so if people want to cross, it’s difficult,” Ryan said.
The study identifies an opportunity to commemorate the heritage of Route 66 along Kearney with decorative plaques and branding, as well as recapturing the once-popular car cruising on the street. Council passed a resolution April 17 to allow residents to once again take part in Kearney cruising during the second Friday of each month, in what Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson called a “pilot project.”
Other placemaking strategies include adding trees and way-finding signage to lead residents to Doling Park.
Developing ways to enable businesses to make their way toward Kearney Street is a critical next step, the city’s Kerner said.
“We’re not going to be able to wave our magic wands and make businesses come,” she said.
PGAV has some ideas.
“They could offer a couple of things – a tax abatement for businesses looking to redevelop or loans with fixed interest rates that they could give businesses for the renovation of buildings,” Ryan said.
She added business owners also could seek approval of a community improvement district.
Jan Preston, a commercial real estate agent at Carol Jones Realtors, attended an earlier council meeting where the study was discussed.
“It sounds like it’s mostly going to be driven by the public’s desire to improve (Kearney Street),” Preston said. “The north Springfield neighborhood associations are really begging for it. They’re the motivating entity in this.”
Preston said PGAV issued maps displaying the corridor’s existing land use, building vacancies and building conditions.
“I’m going to blow the maps up and start plotting and working the area,” she said. “I’m excited to see an area of Springfield that really needs some renovation will get it.”
Preston knows a property owner adjacent to Kearney Street that would like to sell but is waiting until improvements begin.
“His property is small, but he would profit tremendously from this being improved,” Preston said, declining to disclose the owner.
Kerner said the study additionally will serve as the basis of the city’s blight report, which means developers wouldn’t have to go through all the steps required to blight a building.
“You know a rising tide raises all boats to a certain extent,” Kerner said. “(Improvements) could bring in new sales tax dollars, and that’s good for everyone.”
A final report with refinements will be presented to City Council by the end of May, Ryan said. A PDF of the study is available through the city