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City Beat: Council OK’s capital improvement plan

Arts center proposal lauded as ‘out-of-the-box thinking’

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As an annual act required by the city’s charter, Springfield City Council approved a resolution to adopt an updated version of the capital improvements program.

The CIP provides a schedule of the city’s public improvements for 2022-27. As a planning document, it is subject to change, but the version submitted to council was recommended by the Planning and Zoning Commission after a public hearing Jan. 13.

At its meeting Feb. 7, council approved the CIP resolution by a vote of 8-0, with Councilperson Abe McGull absent.

Randall Whitman, principal planner, said the city has 128 planned capital improvement projects for 2022 with an estimated cost of $137 million. Projects eligible for inclusion are valued at $100,000 or more and have a useful life of at least six years, according to the resolution. Each project has an identified funding source.

Whitman presented the CIP and a summary to council and noted it represents the best intentions for permanent improvement projects through 2027.

“You’ll see the Jordan Creek renewal project; there’s numerous street, bridge and intersection improvement projects that are kicking off this year, including the Grant Avenue Parkway, Galloway, Division Street, another phase of the Central streetscape project,” he said. 

He also pointed to three fire station projects, new gateway and parking lot improvements on Commercial Street, streetscape improvements to portions of Jefferson Street, and several trail projects, including the acquisition and design of the Chadwick Flyer greenway.

“There’s a lot going on,” he said.

The largest planned expenditures in 2022 are street improvements, with 31 projects at a cost of $51.7 million. The plan also shows 29 sanitary sewer improvements proposed at a cost of $29.4 million. Eight targeted infrastructure improvements are proposed at $16.2 million.

Other proposals include improvements to the airport, fire stations, municipal buildings and grounds, parks, solid waste, stormwater, traffic management, and walkability, bicycle and safety.

There are 157 projects already proposed for funding from 2023 to 2027 at an estimated cost of $471.3 million. Last year, 11 projects were completed at a cost of $25 million, Whitman noted, including sanitary and stormwater sewer work; road improvements on Galloway Street and at the intersection of Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street; signal improvements on National Avenue and Commercial Street; and sidewalk and trail projects.

The biggest project concluded in 2021 was a sanitary sewer overflow control program, which cost $14.7 million.

Councilperson Richard Ollis said he would like to hear more details about the new CIP at one of council’s Tuesday lunch sessions.

“Our capital improvement program really gets a lot of bang for our buck because many communities spend two or three times as much as a percentage as Springfield does,” Ollis said.

Arts studio proposed
Council heard first reading of a measure that would lead to the transformation of the defunct Doling Elementary School building, near the intersection of Kansas Expressway and Atlantic Street, into studio and classroom space for artists.

Studio owners Mike Stevens and Kate Baird submitted a proposal that would allow them to create the New Moon Studio Space in the former school building. The space would serve visual art, dance, drama, music and other art forms with areas for creative work and classes.

Council will vote Feb. 22 on whether to grant a conditional-use permit request in the residential single-family zoned district.

Councilperson Angela Romine is in favor of the center.

“It’s just out-of-the-box thinking to repurpose a building that normally would have probably stayed empty and vacant for a very long time,” she said. “I’m really, really excited for the neighborhood.”

Councilperson Matthew Simpson asked if a performance space is planned in the center.

Addressing council, Stevens, who is also executive director of Moxie Cinema, said that was a future possibility.

“Since there are so many gallery and exhibition spaces, we’re focusing on the resource that isn’t here for the arts community, which is rentable studio spaces,” Stevens said.

The 28,000-square-foot school, built in 1916 and still owned by Springfield Public Schools, has stood mostly vacant for two decades since it closed in 2002. Stevens and Baird plan to purchase the building if council passes the zoning measure.

According to the New Moon Studio Space website, the center plans to open its doors in 2022 with 24-hour keypad access for artists. Rents will range from $100 to $600 per month.

In other arts news, council voted to accept a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to allow the city’s Workforce Development Department to partner with fourth graders at Bingham Elementary, a Title I school, to explore future career options through art.

“This program is a career-exploration, soft-skill-development, workforce-development art project,” said Sally Payne, director of workforce development. “They’ll do art projects while we work with them on teamwork and communication, and they’ll do a career interest survey.”

Other action items:

  • Council heard first reading of an ordinance to allow reconfiguration of the Mister Car Wash at 1240 E. Battlefield Road in order to relocate the parking area. A car wash has operated at that site since 1995.

Another first reading would rezone property at 1461 E. Seminole St., formerly the Daybreak Adult Day Care, operated by the Council of Churches of the Ozarks Inc., so that it can be used as a child day care. An outdoor play area would be added to the site. The property is owned by CL Smith Properties LLC.

Council heard a rezoning proposal for 1.5 acres at 309 and 327 W. Lakewood St. Near the Library Center, the property is being developed as a high-intensity retail office or housing space, and the developer wants to relocate approved parking from the side to the front of the building, in the process moving water detention underground. The developer is Project Collective LLC.

All three items will be voted on at council’s Feb. 22 meeting.

  • Council was asked to approve new hourly rates for loan servicing the city staff provides for the Springfield Finance and Development Corp., a for-profit entity that provides loans for small businesses that may otherwise not be able to obtain financing, according to Sarah Kerner, economic development director.

The city has been charging $20 per hour, but through the new agreement will raise rates to $36.03 in the first year and $52.06 in the second, as the latter rate represents full cost recovery for the city. In the last 10 years, hours billed have ranged from 10 to 80 hours per year.

City staff is also asking to charge the Southwest Missouri Council of Governments $52.06 per hour to provide similar loan servicing in a new one-year agreement.

These items will also go to a vote Feb. 22.

  • Council approved a collaboration between the city and the state Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development for its support of a firefighter apprenticeship program.

The next council meeting will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 22, because of the Presidents Day holiday.

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