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Grant Avenue Corridor Plan includes hopes of improving housing in the area

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 8:10 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A plan to connect downtown Springfield to The Wonders of Wildlife has some residents wondering where they fit into this future landscape.

The Grant Avenue Corridor Plan is described by the city as a pedestrian-friendly project that includes bike lanes, a roundabout, two raised intersections, three protected intersections, a grade separated crossing at Fassnight Creek, bridge enhancement, utility upgrades, fiber connectivity, additional crossing and signal timing improvements, outdoor incubator, and creek daylighting.

On Tuesday night in the seventh public meeting on the project, officials talked about their housing-related hopes for the area that included new zoning codes for different types of usages and owners investing in sprucing up the many older houses along the road, some of which are sub-standard.

At one point during the virtual meeting there were photos of six older homes that then dissolved into more palatial, high-end historical-style homes with the comment that there was great potential along the corridor for reinvestment.

The problem of course is not everyone who lives along Grant Avenue in the area of revitalization can afford to improve their home’s appearance and some of the owners, especially those on low incomes, are worried about being forced out.

“I have heard from several people who are concerned about eminent domain, you know the city coming in and taking their houses from them,” said Caron Parnell, the President of the West Central Neighborhood Alliance and home owner in the area.

“It’s got nothing to do with displacing people from their homes,” replied Randall Whitman, the Principal Planner for Springfield’s Planning and Development Department, when asked about whether the project would end up forcing people to move.

Whitman said the city is definitely looking to beautify the corridor but would not come after owners with sub-standard housing. Instead the city has been meeting for over a year with some owners along the corridor to find out how they can help and offer financial aid.

“The ‘Restore SGF’ initiative is going to be in place to help some home owners who would like to be able to fix up their property and just can’t afford to do it on their own,” Parnell said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of the planning meetings and I think the city has done a great job reaching out to residents.”

Springfield’s city website has more on that financial aid and there’s more on the latest initiative at RestoreSGF.com. You’ll notice that the city has several affordable housing programs that encourage home ownership and community service organizations that offer financial options toward home ownership or reinvesting in homes by making improvements.

The changes in the zoning code to allow for more different kinds of usage in some areas along the corridor is an attempt to spark improvements and more monetary investments but Whitman pointed out that home owners will not be required to take part in the changes.

“Right now there are single family houses here and that’s what is permitted,” Whitman said. “But we’re going to create opportunities for the property owners, whether that be an investor or somebody who’s lived in their house for 30 years, to sell or accumulate two or three houses and build a new type of housing with maybe more rooms or more affordability or a better feel to that pedestrian-look that we’re trying to accomplish. But they can also continue to enjoy their house just the way it is. It doesn’t displace anybody.”

However, renters along the corridor might face a more uncertain future when it comes to possible displacement depending on what those who own those properties decide to do.

“You might,” Parnell said when asked if those who rent housing along the corridor could see their lives disrupted by the changes. “That is a concern of several of our residents.”

“There’s a possibility that the person who owns it wants to sell it, tear it down and build something that increases the number of dwelling units,” Whitman explained. “But that’s nothing the city’s involved with and we’re not targeting that type of thing.”

But there is at least one positive that may come from all this change.

“It’s very likely that when a public improvement takes place the property values improve along with it,” said Tim Rosenbury, the Director of Quality of Place Initiatives. “The Grant Avenue Project is being done to create a positive image of Springfield for people who visit but even more important to the people who live here it’s going to be full of all kinds of interesting places and a great way to spend time.”

That prospect excites home owners like Brandon Jenson who just bought his first home in the neighborhood.

“We’re excited to see that the city is trying to help us address our structures that are located throughout our neighborhood that are in need of a lot of love and investment,” he said. “And they really don’t present the best forward face for our neighborhood.”

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