The city of Springfield is one step closer to voting on a plan designed to revitalize Kearney Street on the north side of town.
Officials held a second public meeting Monday night to present their draft of the Kearney Street Redevelopment Plan and gain public input. It was developed using a study by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc. or PGAV. It focuses on a three-mile stretch of Kearney between Kansas Expressway and Glenstone Avenue. The city also used input from Springfield residents at an Aug. 24 meeting.
According to Olivia Hough, a senior planner for the city, the study showed retail options for Kearney Street that saw opportunities for “food, family friendly entertainment and deep value retail.” Deep value retail includes stores like TJ Maxx that sells at prices lower than department stores.
Another suggestion from the study was for the city to tap into its ties to Route 66.
“Kearney Street is historic Route 66 and there may be some opportunities to capitalize on that with either visual store fronts or maybe some themed restaurants, sit down dining establishments around that theme and things like that,” Hough said Monday.
One of the main parts of the plan offers tax abatement for 10 years to any businesses that build or remodel properties deemed blighted on Kearney Street. To be eligible for the tax abatement, a business must follow the redevelopment plan which excludes certain uses.
“If someone wanted to put in a, for example, short-term, high-interest lending like the payday loans, they could do that,” Olivia Hough said. “But do we want to incentivize that with tax abatement?”
“It was a pretty unanimous no,” Hough added.
Other examples of businesses that would not qualify for tax abatement are auction shows, pawn shops, self-storage, and shelters, among others.
Sarah Kerner, economic development director for the city, said tax abatement adds an incentive for those who are thinking about redeveloping on Kearney Street.
“Whether that’s an existing owner of a building that maybe has been thinking for a long time they want to make improvements but they’ve never been sure and maybe this is finally the thing that will finally make them pull the trigger,” Kerner said.
Projects are normally developer driven, according to Kerner, while the Kearney Street redevelopment plan is city driven
“We’re going to put it all in place for you, where the application process is very simple and streamlined. We’re trying to put that in place to kind of prime Kearney Street for redevelopment,” Kerner said.
Another goal for the redevelopment is to try and boost the economy on the north side of town. Some voiced concerns that the return of cruising to Kearney Street might lead to more congestion and not just spending.
“That’s the whole point of what hopefully this plan would allow us to increase the opportunities to spend money,” said Dr. Thomas Prater, Zone 2 councilman.
Others in attendance at Monday’s meeting asked about the potential of another mall on the north side. Springfield used to have one located at the corner of Kearney Street and Glenstone Avenue where a Wal-Mart Supercenter now sits.
“I think that’s up to whoever wants to buy a chunk of property and develop it,” Prater said.
Prater said the city hopes to vote to approve the plan by the end of this year or early next.