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No. 1: Projects pit developers against neighbors

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It was a fractious year for development. Three proposed projects in Springfield received pushback from would-be neighbors, with each involving a tug of war that came down to the basic question of who has the right to determine the character of a place.

A trio of plans, sited in the neighborhoods of Galloway Village, University Heights and Seminole/Holland, brought most of the discord.

Elevation Enterprises LLC, owned by Mitch and Amanda Jenkins, sought to build a mixed-use development in Galloway Village on a 4.2-acre parcel adjacent to Sequiota Park. The development would have created roughly 95 apartments above ground-level businesses.

Though prominent citizens, including the mayor and two university presidents, spoke in favor of the project, it faced opposition from some neighborhood residents due to its scope and other factors, including fears about traffic, stormwater runoff and its appearance next to the park.

The Elevation project was quashed in a citywide referendum Nov. 8. Some 70.5% of voters rejected rezoning the property to mixed use from a mixed designation of single-family residential, general retail and limited business. The decision came after years of debate and legal battles, and the future use of the property remains unclear.

Tempers ran high in the University Heights neighborhood, as well, over a proposal to rezone a 2.6-acre parcel of land at the northwest corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street to commercial from residential.

In an Aug. 18 meeting, developers organized as BK&M LLC told residents they planned to raze three homes and build a mixed-use establishment, but they gave no specific plans, instead saying they wanted to brainstorm with neighbors.

BK&M stands for Be Kind & Merciful, and investors are Ralph and Sarah Duda, Anthony and Jessica Tolliver, Marty Duda and Brad Miller.

A vulgar epithet slung by a neighborhood resident against Sarah Duda caused Ralph Duda to bring the first meeting to an immediate halt, and the incident may have helped set a rocky course for the parties. BK&M announced plans to get rid of eight houses in a neighborhood that has had no commercial encroachment since it was platted in 1925, and the company tore down a highly visible, 4,410-square-foot home at 1755 S. National Ave.

Ultimately, BK&M announced plans to take down seven other houses and build The Heights, a mixed-use development that could comprise 200,000 square feet and rise to six stories.

The concern expressed most frequently by opponents is how development would permanently alter the character of the neighborhood, including the century-old homes that would be removed.

The Seminole/Holland project is a proposed 7 Brew Coffee at Sunshine Street and Jefferson Avenue, about a mile west of the contested development in University Heights.

According to a proposal from Reding Management LLC and Redec LLC, both owned by Royce Reding, the 7 Brew would be entered via Jefferson Avenue and exited through a primarily residential road, Roanoke Avenue. It would have three drive-thru lanes with no indoor seating, and, as a characteristic feature of the franchise, would play music from a speaker system during hours of operation.

The developers have offered a number of concessions after pushback from residents and city officials concerned about heavy traffic within the neighborhood and backed-up vehicles trying to turn into the business. Modifications have included the construction of sidewalks, the positioning of speakers toward Sunshine Street and away from the neighborhood, and the inclusion of outdoor seating for pedestrians.


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