Dave Bakke March 30: Some criticisms of Springfield justified

ICON applauds Dave Bakke for his column March 30 – we wish we had written it.  ICON is all about making Springfield a better place to work, live and do business – for ALL of Springfield.  Along with neighborhood groups such as Enos Park and MacArthur Boulevard, which have master plans in place for intentional redevelopment of blighted areas that include room for pedestrian and bicycle access, ICON supports planning for an improved Springfield.  We can’t agree more that developers who receive TIF money should be held to a higher standard.

We want to be clear that we welcome the new County Market at Carpenter and 2nd Street, a huge benefit to the Medical District / Enos Park area.  We’re pleased that, as of April 9, County Market owner Neimann has added two sidewalks (one on Carpenter, one on Second St.) to connect the city sidewalks to the County Market property and provide improved pedestrian access.

Excerpts of the article are below with a link to the full article on SJ-R.com.

…And this week, a St. Louis architect gave his assessment of Springfield’s new County Market on Carpenter Street. The headline: “Springfield, IL and Niemann Foods Don’t Understand Pedestrian-Friendly Design.” Steve Patterson wrote about this on his weblog, UrbanDesignSTL  Steve has a degree in environmental design from the college of architecture at the University of Oklahoma. His blog was named Best Blog in St. Louis by Riverfront Times and its readers and by St. Louis Magazine.  He writes, “Springfield and Niemann Foods had a chance to build a good urban prototype that would’ve been equally accessible by pedestrians and motorists, but they blew it big time. They need to at least provide an ADA pedestrian route from both Carpenter and 2nd Streets to each entrance.”

Having a new grocery store where it is located is a boost for Springfield. Nobody disputes that. But Patterson prints excerpts that show (1) Springfield officials knew the store would get heavy pedestrian traffic; (2) the recommendation 11 years ago (!) from the Regional/Urban Design Assistance Team for Springfield to get more pedestrian-friendly; and (3) one goal of Springfield 2020, 13 years ago (!), was to make Springfield more pedestrian-friendly.  Eleven years and 13 years. How long does it take? I suppose, compared to waiting 40 years for a second city water source, 11 and 13 years are not too bad.

Patterson compares our new County Market to the County Market on East Stoughton in Champaign, which, in Patterson’s view, was done right. He includes illustrations showing sidewalks next to the exterior walls of the Champaign store. Sidewalks lead to both its main entrance and secondary entrance. In contrast, he shows a man in a wheelchair at the Springfield store navigating through the parking lot.  I called Bruce Knight, Champaign’s director of city planning, and asked, “Did your city insist on a pedestrian-friendly design, or did the original plans already call for it?” In other words, could Springfield’s store have been designed like this if our city officials had insisted?  His response: “We were very much involved in that. It’s a heavy pedestrian area in our university district. We very much wanted to ensure that there was good pedestrian access, so we worked closely with the developer and County Market.”

Back to Champaign. I asked city planner Knight if that city had Niemann do more than is required by city ordinances.  “Yes,” he said. “Since the development was done through an RFP (request for proposal) and approved as a Planned Development, there was more done.”  Patterson on the issue: “Cities will often say they can’t force private developers to do things the way they’d like them to be done. If urban zoning … isn’t in place ahead of time, it can be difficult to force a private project to do something the regulations don’t require. But Springfield did a $2 million TIF with County Market. They had the ability to make the project better.”

I have had enough of Springfield being insulted and used as a bad example. It’s embarrassing, infuriating and painful. Especially when it’s our own fault. I live here. I want it to be better, and it could be.

Read the full story at SJ-R.com…