Progress on the Downtown Springfield Master Plan is getting a big push forward thanks in part to a recent $150,000 grant to the City of Springfield along a new initiative to gain community involvement on the project. The Downtown Springfield & Mid-Illinois Medical District Master Plan is a collaboration between the City of Springfield, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance, Downtown Springfield, Inc. and the Mid-Illinois Medical District. The Master Plan will be a blueprint for the area’s strategic growth used to guide future land use and development, transportation and parking, pedestrian mobility, and streetscape improvements.
“Downtown is the heart of the City and our Medical District is a cornerstone to this region. We are at a pivotal moment as we emerge from the pandemic,” stated Mayor Jim Langfelder. “In downtown we are seeing growth and expansion from the State Capitol Complex, Horace Mann, the new Hub Transportation Center, and U of I Innovation Center. This, along with the Medical District’s continued progress and the growth of the new YMCA and Springfield Art Association, it is time we ensure the next steps are in the best direction when it comes to residential and economic development. We are proud to be a stakeholder on this important project. We truly appreciate the State of Illinois’ assistance in providing critical funding to ensure a comprehensive and community driven plan.”
Collaborators for the Downtown Springfield and the Mid-Illinois Medical District Master are launching a new website this week to facilitate engagement and participation from community members. All Springfield residents, business owners/operators, property owners, developers, or other community stakeholders are encouraged to visit www.SpringfieldMasterPlan.com and provide input with the tools available in the website’s Get Involved section.
There are two ways for the community to provide input on the project. The first is by completing brief questionnaires. Participants can choose to complete one or both questionnaires, depending on their interest and familiarity with the issues and opportunities facing Downtown Springfield and/or the Mid-Illinois Medical District. The second is by utilizing an online tool called ‘map social’ which allows the user to drop a point and enter comments on a map of the project location area. The app allows points of interest to be identified, categorized and mapped in an effort to provide directly relevant feedback in the planning process.
“The idea for this planning process was born out of The Next 10 community visioning project,” said Community Foundation President and CEO John Stremsterfer. “Communities that continually value citizen input, plan and, ultimately, enact plans are the communities that will flourish. Planning for downtown Springfield and our Medical District just makes sense.”
The project will benefit from a recently awarded $150,000 grant to the City of Springfield by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) intended to help jumpstart future economic development opportunities. The grant money will be used to cover development planning costs and research for the master plan. Springfield was one of only seven cities in Illinois to receive the full grant allocation. In all, 42 grants were awarded across the state, totaling nearly $3.5 million in funding to accelerate local economic recovery initiatives. Funding was provided through the Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery (RISE) program, which is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
“This grant opens the door for us to develop a detailed, successful plan and identify opportunities to tell the world what we want our downtown to look like,” said SSGA Director of Business Development Abby Powell. “Even though the downtown and the medical district are distinct geographic areas, they do overlap, and they do support each other. In order for us to attract development into downtown and the medical district, we have to paint the picture for developers and our community about what our future growth will look like and what types of businesses would fit best here. We want the community’s help in determining what that picture looks like so their involvement is a critical step forward.”
Powell said this is the first time a master plan has ever been developed for Downtown Springfield, and it’s been 20 years since the last master plan was created for the Medical District. Based on collaborative community engagement efforts, the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln identified the Downtown and Mid-Illinois Medical District as a focus area for strategic development. Along with the Community Foundation, SSGA and the City of Springfield helped fund efforts to begin initial planning work for the district.
The final plan will identify housing gaps, urban development goals, and plans for increased arts and culture in the area. The plan will also outline a district management strategy that can be utilized for years to come. The planning process started last summer and will conclude in the summer of 2023. This current call for participation associated with the recent website launch is the first of several opportunities for public input planned throughout the year.