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Rebecca Green | SBJ

No. 7: Forward SGF sets course for next two decades

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The city of Springfield approved its latest comprehensive plan, Forward SGF, at the Nov. 14 meeting of City Council.

The plan will carry the city through 2040. It replaces Vision 20/20, which was approved in 2004.

Quality of place is a guiding principle of Forward SGF. Prior to the vote to adopt Forward SGF, Tim Rosenbury, the city’s director of quality of place initiatives, told council it was a theme that was woven through the plan.

Rosenbury called quality of place a test.

“To summarize that test, for anything we initiate publicly or privately: How best can this initiative improve how our citizens experience place in our community?” he said.

In comments before the vote, City Manager Jason Gage praised the community for providing quality input. Some 185 Springfield residents were credited with contributing to the 250-page document that was released at a community reveal event July 21 at Hammons Field.

In addition to volunteers, over 1,500 participants attended 57 face-to-face workshops, one of which drew 500 people, to offer input on the plan.

“If we can even do half the things that are in this vision, this place will be transformed and be even better than it ever was,” Gage said.

Forward SGF has 10 key initiatives:

  1. Restore SGF – neighborhood revitalization
  2. Place-based approach
  3. Comprehensive city code update
  4. Ungapping the city’s trail map
  5. Entrepreneurial stewardship
  6. Corridor improvements
  7. Neighborhood commercial hubs and planning
  8. Connecting to nature
  9. Growth and annexation plan
  10. Regional planning and partnerships

Springfield Principal Planner Randall Whitman told council the plan includes more than 700 recommendations in all, and some of the work – like a housing study, a transit study and a master plan for Lake Springfield – is already in motion.

Also included is the city’s Grant Avenue Parkway project, which is also well underway, Whitman said.

Whereas Vision 20/20 had the goal of improving the downtown and Commercial Street districts, Forward SGF widens the focus to historic neighborhoods near the city’s center. The Restore SGF program, which offers low-interest financing and grants for rehabbing older homes, is a tool for accomplishing that.

The plan also uses a place-based approach instead of conventional zoning. The emphasis, Whitman told Springfield Business Journal, is on experiences, rather than functions in setting land-use policies, and planners consider the combination of uses that are appropriate for a parcel. The formation of neighborhood commercial hubs, such as the shopping and dining at Pickwick Avenue and Cherry Street bordering homes in Rountree, is one desired outcome.

Corridor improvements that consider both beauty and flow are also embedded in the plan.

“We love cities that are beautiful, and a lot of that beauty comes through in corridors – or not, as is the case somewhat in Springfield,” Rosenbury told SBJ, citing critical corridors as West Kearney Street and North Glenstone Avenue, both of which serve as gateways to the city.

Chicago-based consulting firm Houseal Lavigne Associates was brought on by the city to craft the plan, including a Parks & Recreation Master Plan update, for nearly $707,000, with up to $50,000 going toward Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates to craft a Commercial Street strategy.

The pandemic caused planning to veer 18 months off schedule, according to Whitman. The process began in June 2019 and was estimated to take two years to complete.

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