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BK&M unveils concept for corner of Sunshine and National

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BK&M LLC, the development group seeking to rezone the northwest corner of Sunshine Street and National Avenue, unveiled architectural renderings of its mixed-use concept at an event it hosted last night at DoubleTree by Hilton.

The developer sent invitations to select guests, including University Heights neighborhood members, who received door hangers about the event, and members of the media. The purpose of the meeting, which is not a formal part of the city’s rezoning process, was to explain the project planned for the corner if City Council OK’s a rezoning to commercial from single-family residential.

The development would be called The Heights as a nod to the neighborhood.

Lead architect Bo Hagerman of Boti Architects LLC unveiled the plans, which feature multistory French-style design in several connected buildings positioned on a site that wraps around the corner of the block. Storefronts are situated close to the sidewalk, but they are accessed from behind the building, where there is a circle drive and up to 190 parking spaces, with valet parking planned, as well.

The curved center of the building is in a Colonial Revival style with an oculus that would shine light upon a central sculpture. The developers consider that area as the lobby of The Heights, with a large restaurant planned on its Sunshine side and a smaller restaurant planned along National. Retail and restaurant tenants have not yet been secured, officials said.

Most of the development is in the French Second Empire style, Hagerman said, with dropped roofing and towers, plus terraces connecting the upper floors. The buildings are mostly white with black trim.

Hagerman said the enclosed tenant parking would be at the base of the structures, and the second floor would be retail.

“We elevated it a little bit,” he said. “You kind of step up to the second floor for the retail.”

There also are office components in the design, most likely for medical tenants.

“Some of that’s flexible to some extent,” Hagerman said.

Three housing towers are tied together by third-floor terraces with amenities for residents.

When an audience member asked about the number of apartments proposed, Ralph Duda of BK&M offered an estimate.

“There’s a lot of T’s that need to be crossed and I’s that need to be dotted,” he said. “At the minimum we’re looking at 50 lofts.”

Duda said there may be as many as six floors, with the top three floors reserved for lofts. He said lofts would rent for $750-$2,000.

He added that the development could range from 75,000 to 200,000 square feet.

Hagerman said the design takes its inspiration from the University Heights area, and specifically from some of the buildings that are going to be displaced if the project moves forward. He described it as “a little bit of nostalgia – a little bit of a throwback.”

He said the design would use a lot of wrought iron and other stylistic cues, including gas lanterns, from the neighborhood aesthetics.

“Basically, it’s taken that 1920s kind of vibe and translating it into a newer mixed-use development,” he said.

The development would have two entrances, one off Sunshine Street and the other off University Street. In the proposed design, the latter entrance is just off National Avenue on University Street, which appeared to block traffic into the neighborhood. There are several possible approaches to controlling traffic access to University Street, according to Hagerman, and the city would decide on which one is appropriate, should zoning be approved.

In August, Duda and business partner Anthony Tolliver introduced themselves at the initial meeting regarding the development as the two owners of BK&M. At the start of last night’s meeting, Duda introduced his brother, Marty Duda, who was present, and identified Brad Miller – like Tolliver, a former NBA player – as two other owners and developers with the group.

In introducing Hagerman, Duda noted the architect served as lead developer on several large projects in the greater Springfield area, including Hammons Field; Hotel Vandivort; buildings on the Ozarks Technical Community College’s Richwood Valley campus; Big Cedar Lodge buildings at the Cliffs at Long Creek and the Lodge at Paradise Point; the Brentwood Center renovation; and the Mercy Heart Hospital Springfield.

There was one heated moment in the meeting when Duda asked a woman to leave. The woman refused.

“You don’t look at me and motion ‘a------.’ That’s not acceptable. We’re not standing for that tonight,” Duda said. “If it happens again, we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”

Hagerman moved ahead with the presentation, saying, “Let’s just focus on actually getting the project out in front of us before we get all concerned about calling names or whatever.”

After the meeting, Duda told Springfield Business Journal he thought it went well.

“I thought it was a lot better than the last two meetings,” he said. “It was nice to be able to have the time in a nice environment where we could show our vision. It takes time, and I think there’s going to be more to come.”

University Heights resident Mark Fletcher, who plans to sue to stop the development, was not present at the meeting on principle, he said, since he alleges the recent tent meeting held on the development site by BK&M violated the rights of residents with disabilities.

Fletcher wrote to SBJ before the meeting to say, “This ‘meeting’ puts the cart before the horse. BK&M has no legal right to construct commercial buildings in University Heights. A fantasy will be presented tonight that a court will very soon bring to an end.”

The zoning issue is expected to be heard by the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission in December.

Once approved, the development would take up to three years to complete, according to Duda.

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