Springfield’s proudest north sider is determined to see a retail renaissance of Kearney Street.
Since becoming the Zone 1 City Council representative in April 2015, Phyllis Ferguson has championed Springfield’s north side. A Woodland Heights resident, Ferguson has been deeply involved in City and community efforts to address the quality of life issues experienced by many in northwest Springfield.
“Economic development is probably the most powerful instrument we have for reducing poverty and improving quality of life in underserved areas,” Ferguson says.
That’s why she’s looking forward to the full results of a market study that’s being conducted on behalf of the City by planning firm PGAV to look at current business patterns and future opportunities for retail and commercial development along Kearney Street between Kansas Expressway and Glenstone Avenue. PGAV presented its preliminary findings from field work and a public input survey conducted in January and February to City Council Feb. 7.
“PGAV has great experience advising cities large and small about community redevelopment projects and we are confident they will provide us an excellent roadmap to help Kearney Street and the surrounding neighborhoods thrive,” says interim Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner. “The key takeaway we hope to receive from the market study is identifying the best economic development tools to revitalize the Kearney Street corridor. We recognize that we may have to get creative and go beyond the types of incentives that we typically use.”
The City held an open house in January at Library Station for citizens to share their ideas for Kearney Street and took comments through an online survey throughout the month of January.
Survey results indicated the majority of respondents most often visit Kearney Street eight or more times each month for shopping and dining on weekday afternoons and evenings. Respondents also indicated that they’d like to see improved sidewalks, landscaped areas in the median, street signs and banners and bicycle lanes. Preferred housing types for future development were mixed-use and single family homes.
Those who attended the open house indicated they’d like to see more full-service dining establishments on Kearney Street, including a microbrewery, a Route 66-themed restaurant and a high-end grocery store such as Hy-Vee or Whole Foods. Other ideas included an ice cream store inside Hiland Dairy. On the wish list for shopping options on Kearney are a craft store, department stores such as Target, Kohl’s, Bed Bath & Beyond and locally owned shops. Attendees also indicated they’d like to see family-friendly entertainment options available again on Kearney Street, such as a movie theatre, bowling alley, miniature golf course or skating rink.
“Cruising” Kearney Street was a rite of passage for many Ozarks teens well into the 1990s, until a city-wide cruising ordinance was adopted.
Due to the development of the Battlefield Mall and Springfield’s expansion southward, Ferguson says little by little, retail shopping and full-service restaurants began to disappear from the street.
“We’ve seen the evolution of blight on Kearney Street. We have people who live on the north side of Springfield and want to make purchases, but have to go to the south side of town to find what they’re looking for,” Ferguson says.
She added that she thinks Kearney Street could also benefit from adding green space and becoming more pedestrian- and bicyclist-friendly.
“We have several tools in our economic development toolbox that we could utilize to draw businesses in, so I am very optimistic about the future of Kearney Street,” Ferguson says.
PGAV has completed phase 1 of the study, which included an assessment of physical conditions within the corridor, such as age of buildings, vacancy rates, and sidewalk condition; a market analysis to determine opportunities in the retail, office and residential sectors; and a public workshop.
The study found that while office demand in Springfield is currently being met, there are opportunities for retail on Kearney that would serve the surrounding residents as well as shoppers in outlying communities. Specifically, the study identified grocery stores as the strongest retail opportunity in the corridor, followed by electronics and appliance stores, health and personal care stores, and clothing stores.
The public input survey and community meeting engaged an enthusiastic group of citizens who have a strong desire to see new grocery and restaurant options, additional retail shopping options, and family-friendly entertainment along Kearney Street. The largest number of participants in the online survey came from the area immediately surrounding and north of the corridor (ZIP code 65803), followed by areas immediately south of the corridor (ZIP codes 65802 and 65806).
Next up for the project is defining sites within the corridor to target for development, and recommendations regarding economic development incentives the City may need to approve in order to spur new investment in the target areas. PGAV expects to finish its work in April or May and will present a final report to City Council at that time.