Downtown Celebrates at Annual Awards Fundraiser

Emcees Mary Young and Mary Kate Smith from The Portuguese Rodeo Clown Company.

Downtown Springfield Inc. celebrated our 27th year as the organization where the downtown neighborhood comes together with a “roaring” Annual Dinner fundraiser at the Wyndham Springfield City Centre on Thursday, January 16, 2020.

Thank you to our sponsors Watts Copy Systems, Wyndham Springfield City Centre, Illinois REALTORS, Chick Fritz Distributing and Frye Williamson Press. Thank you to our Corporate Table sponsors: Bank of Springfield, Brown, Hay & Stephens LLP, Hanson Professional Services, Horace Mann, HSHS St. Johns Hospital, Kuhn & Trello, Memorial Medical Center, and US Bank.

Approximately 500 attendees were welcomed by a video from Governor JB Pritzker to kick off the night, which included a great performance by The Gaslight Squares, who came up to jam from St. Louis.

The evening marked the official transition from the 2019 Board of Directors to the 2020 Board of Directors, with outgoing President Kevin Kuhn of Kuhn & Trello Consulting Engineers passing the gavel to Brian Wojcicki of Illinois Capitol Group.

Mayor Jim Langfelder celebrated his 60th birthday with his annual State of the Downtown address. John Charles from Southern Illinois University and Bruce Sommer of University of Illinois Springfield also gave the first joint public appearance concerning the universities’ plans to submit a proposal to Governor Pritzker to expand programs in the downtown neighborhood via an Innovation District.

The audience generously raised more than $33,000 on the spot for DSI’s newest program, Momentum on Main Street, which brings together a coalition of entities to attract the next generation of entrepreneurs, property developers and investors. Stay tuned for announcements regarding our 2020 plans for Momentum thanks to this generous outpouring.

Chef August Mrozowski of Augie’s Front Burner receives the 2019 Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Chef August Mrozowski was honored with the Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award. Augie started in the kitchen at the St. Nick’s alongside his father at age 14; helped start the Old Capitol Farmers Market as a chef seeking new farmers with fresh ingredients in the 90’s; has helped train other amazing local chefs such as Jordan Coffey of American Harvest and Corey Faucon of Long Nine Junction; and celebrated 22 years operating Augie’s Front Burner in 2019. Read this excellent profile of Augie by Jay Kitterman from The State Journal-Register.

Award nominees were recommended by the public and determined by a panel of DSI Past Presidents and active members. Here is a complete list of the businesses and individuals recognized as people and places making the most impact on the neighborhood in calendar year 2019:

Best Retail
Corrine’s Closet

Best Restaurant
La Piazza Cucina Italiana

Best Nightlife
Floyd’s Thirst Parlor

Best Event
Jaycees Holiday Lights Parade

Best Creative Promotion
Holiday Walks Trivia (The Portuguese Rodeo Clown Company)

Green Leadership
Susan Helm, Native Planters Project

Innovative Business Concept
Dumb Records

Best New Signage
Richards & Stehman

Best Interior Renovation
Brown Hay and Stephens

Best Public/Private Partnership
Levitt AMP Springfield
City of Springfield, Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation,
PNC Bank, Springfield Area Arts Council

Best Not for Profit Initiative
Farmers Market SNAP Outreach
Junior League of Springfield

Downtown Advocate
David Lee

Best Holiday Window (Voted by Public)
The Roost

Best Upper Story Renovation
Third Monroe LLC

Best Overall Renovation
Centre at 501

DSI Volunteer of the Year
Michael S. Johnson

Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award
August Mrozowski

Want to get involved in DSI as a volunteer or join as a member? Contact us!

FY 2021 City Budget Hearings

Last night, DSI went to the City of Springfield budget hearings for the three departments our organization works with the most: Economic Development, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Public Works. The departments were offering their proposals for the FY2021 city budget which starts March 1, 2020. Here are some highlights from the presentations and discussion with Aldermen of interest to those of us who care about downtown.

DOWNTOWN TIF FUNDS

In three years, the TIF will have positive cash flow. There is no cash available for payouts for obligated projects this fiscal year. Annually, the TIF pays $1.4M to the County to disperse to the taxing districts, including District 186. This fiscal year, $1.25M will go to the YMCA project at 4th and Carpenter, $450,000 is targeted for DK Collections’ hotel project at 4th and Washington, and another $165,000 needs to be paid for the sewer project on the north side of the Y Block. Discussion included whether the City would bond against future TIF projects.

VISITORS BUREAU AT 6TH AND ADAMS

There has been a 550% increase in visitors to the Visitors Bureau since it opened its visitors center on the Plaza vs when it welcomed visitors at its headquarters on 7th Street. There were 17,000 people who stopped in in 2019. We advocated for a Plaza visitors pop up back in 2017 and we’re thrilled with the results.

CVB GOES MOBILE

The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s budget includes a $54,000 “wrapped” van to utilize for interstate travel when hunting for new conventions and for local events and site visits.

LOCAL SPRINGFIELD PROUD

CVB will be working with other local organizations on a local pride marketing campaign.

PARKING METERS

City has sent out the same RFP they used 18 months ago again. Public Works plans to hold a public input meeting in a few months.

The current RFP calls for upgrading 200 of the 1400 meters downtown to be able to accept a credit card. Much discussion with Aldermen about whether this is the right strategy.

Staff admits that some meters are not used much in the outskirts and may consider taking them out.

TREE ASSET INVENTORY

Public Works has $100,000 in its proposed budget for an inventory of Springfield’s trees and a plan to replace them. Aldermen displayed skepticism for the price tag for this consultant. This is an initiative of the Mayor’s Urban Forestry Commission.

BIKESHARE

Public Works said Gotcha will be launching their bike share program in downtown this spring.

TWO WAY STREETS

Along with the modernization of traffic signals which have outlived their useful life and need to be replaced, the City intends to convert several downtown streets back to two-way (as they were previously in the 1950’s and before) for easier navigation and safety.

Regarding the costs — $4.3M is the cost for overall signal modernization and two-way street conversion of 4th, 7th and Adams as the first phase. If the City reversed course and decided not to do the conversion back to two way (which DSI would oppose), the cost of the modernization would be $3.4M.

BEAUTIFICATION

The Mayor’s beautification proposal includes downtown and the major corridors of the city. It was unclear how the routes would be prioritized. Public Works said they would be putting together a five year plan for this and their other projects.

Public Works mentioned installing a street arch at First Street. We’re not sure what this is, but we’re asking! Sounds like the replacement of something historic to go along with the Mayor’s beautification proposal.

SUPPORT FOR DSI

The Economic Development budget included $50,000 for DSI’s economic development work.

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Downtown is represented by two aldermen – Andrew Proctor (Ward 5) and Shawn Gregory (Ward 2).

Announcing the 2019 Downtown Awards Nominees

All recipients are announced at our Annual Dinner on Thursday, January 16th. (You can still buy tickets! We are going back to the 1920’s with this year’s theme).

Awards without pre-announced nominees include Best Holiday Window as voted by the public; Best Upper Story Renovation; Best Overall Renovation; DSI Volunteer of the Year; and Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award.

Congratulations to the following businesses and individuals who epitomized the Best of 2019 in downtown Springfield. The nominations by the public were reviewed by a committee of DSI Past Presidents and members who were active in DSI committees last year:

Best Retail
Corrine’s Closet
Dumb Records
Itty Bitty Fashion Trunk

Best Restaurant
Arlington’s
Cafe Moxo
La Piazza Cucina Italiana

Best Nightlife
The Alamo
Floyd’s Thirst Parlor
JP Kelly’s

Best Event
Jaycees Holiday Lights Parade
Levitt AMP Springfield
Pride Fest

Best Creative Promotion
12 Days of Giveaways (Willow & Birch)
Holiday Walks Trivia (The Portuguese Radio Clown Company)
She’s Blooming Awesome (Springfield Vintage)

Green Leadership
Hoogland Center of the Arts, Energy Efficiency Plan
Illinois Environmental Council, Solar Installation
Susan Helm, Native Planters Project

Innovative Business Concept
Dumb Records
HelloWater
The Incubator

Best New Signage
The Cardologist
Good Heart Tattoo
Richards & Stehman

Best Interior Renovation
Anvil & Forge
Brown Hay and Stephens
INB Training Center & Marketing Offices

Best Public/Private Partnership
UIS Adoption of Innovate Springfield (Community Foundation and UIS)
Dare to be Different Fashion Show (Springfield Vintage and PCASA)
Levitt AMP Springfield (City, DSI, Heritage Foundation, PNC and other Sponsors)

Best Not for Profit Initiative
Bees & Butterflies Exhibit (Kidzeum)
Center for Health and Housing Concept (Helping Hands)
Farmers Market SNAP Outreach (Junior League of Springfield)

Downtown Advocate
Chris Nickell
David Lee
Josh Sabo

Answering Your Pressing Questions: Downtown University Presence

Q: Does DSI want one or more universities to locate programs in the downtown neighborhood?

A: We sure do, and we’ve been on the record since at least 2013.  According to a 2017 study by the Brookings Institution, downtown higher ed programs outperform their peers, and have emerged as “key competitive differentiators” for cities. The study entitled, “Hidden in plain sight: The oversized impact of downtown universities,” highlights the important interplay between universities, startups, and local jobs. (Source: Why downtown universities help fuel the urban startup ecosystem)

The creation of downtown business incubator and social innovation hub Innovate Springfield by the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln in 2015, which is now a part of UIS as of 2018, was the biggest step so far in a long dialogue. Innovate Springfield is now part of the Illinois Innovation Network, a State initiative led by the University of Illinois System to foster the breakthrough research, discovery, and entrepreneurship that drives progress, job creation and economic growth.

Q: Why has the conversation heated up now?

A: Governor Pritzker has been touring new downtown IIN hub locations in Chicago, Peoria and other cities and Springfield needs to finalize its location as well. UIS Chancellor Koch has been seeking a downtown location for more than a year.

Plus, the Governor and legislative caucuses passed a capital bill last year, which only comes around once a decade and includes potential funding for higher ed projects. Combining these two state funding streams could create an opportunity for University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University — the two largest higher ed systems in the state — to work more closely together in the areas of innovation and incubation.

This concept fits in brilliantly with what DSI has been preaching for a while — supporting and increasing the number of “Creatives in the Core” is the way to accelerate our local economy by supporting the businesses who are here and creating more jobs.

Q: I’ve read news reports by Bruce Rushton and Brenden Moore about a plan to locate potential buildings at the epicenter of 4th and Adams.  What’s up?

A: The staff of the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance met with property owners from 2nd to 4th Street, and Monroe to Washington, to share their organization’s ideas about a preferred location for potential university programs.

The universities have not formally selected any location yet.

DSI has not yet provided a formal proposal to the universities, Governor Pritzker or Senator Andy Manar (chair of the Senate’s Appropriations II Committee), because we await information about needed square footage. However, we are now working with SSGA, AIA Illinois, Landmarks Illinois, and Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation to develop resources for the decision-makers when we, as a community, enter the final phase of determining the best location.

Those resources include analysis of other downtown neighborhoods across the nation that have a well-integrated higher ed presence, such as: Scott Community College in Davenport, IA; The University of Memphis in Tennessee; and the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin.

No matter how quickly our proposals must gel together in the next few months, a process that includes transparent, collaborative community participation is vital.

Q: Where would a downtown university presence be located?

That has yet to be determined. The universities have not yet weighed in with space needs for programs or a preferred location(s).

It’s understandable why SSGA identified Fourth and Adams as an epicenter for any potential higher ed projects: it is near the State Capitol; who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the potential greenway left when Third Street rail ways are consolidated to 10th Street; and it is also an area that has already attracted private and city investment, and many new businesses, in the last decade, which would provide the “interplay” highlighted in the Brookings Institution report.

Q: What is guiding DSI’s participation in these conversations?

Downtown Springfield Inc is a nationally-accredited Main Street organization, a coalition of downtown businesses, and a champion for downtown investment for nearly 28 years. We have more than 150 business and non-profit members.

Our daily work is to celebrate and support the investment that entrepreneurs and residential developers have already made in the downtown neighborhood and to work to attract even more investment.

On December 12th, the DSI Board of Directors took this official position:

  • A vibrant university presence is invaluable to the long-term vitality of downtown Springfield.
  • In keeping with the strong sense of community that exists downtown, we believe transparent, collaborative stakeholder participation is instrumental in developing and nurturing a downtown university presence.
  • We look forward to working with all community partners to integrate the universities into downtown Springfield.

Downtown university programs could potentially turn surface parking lots into beautiful new buildings and vacant buildings into living laboratories. These gaps have previously been identified as black eyes in the SDAT Report, in the RUDAT report, and in the City’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan. It’s at least a good place to start the conversation about location.

As a neighborhood community, we are beyond excited to become the setting for Springfield’s “interplay” between small businesses, technology and higher ed research in the coming years. We look forward to working with the universities, as a community, to give Governor Pritzker a proposal he can get excited about, too.

Tell Us Who Should Receive This Year’s DSI Awards

Every year during our Annual Dinner & Awards, Downtown Springfield Inc. recognizes the business owners in the downtown area who are leading the way to a busy, friendly, bold, entertaining and coveted neighborhood.

The first step in the nomination process comes from YOU. Log your suggestions using our online survey tool>

We’ll announce the 2019 recipients at the Annual Dinner on January 16, 2020.

Review the recipients over the years here.

This 27th Annual Dinner will be held at the Wyndham City Centre and we’re taking downtown back to its Roaring 20’s. Tickets will be available soon for DSI’s largest fundraiser of the year. This is one celebration you won’t want to miss!

Monthly Indoor Farmers Markets Start Saturday

Shoppers can find the perfect Illinois wine for their holiday table as part of the indoor Markets.

Springfield shoppers can still find locally grown, high-quality products during the winter months at one of six indoor Holiday/Winter Markets hosted by Downtown Springfield Inc. and made possible by HSHS St. John’s Hospital and other generous sponsors.

These cold-weather markets were started by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, who turned them over to DSI in 2019 under our Old Capitol Farmers Market umbrella, as we work to grow the demand for a year-round Farmers Market in downtown Springfield.

The first indoor Market is this Saturday, November 23rd from 9 am – noon, and there is one indoor Market each month through April. This year’s location is Anvil & Forge on 619 E Washington Street, which offers approximately 6,000 square feet for each Market, a much larger space than we have been able to utilize downtown previously.

The November and December, or “Holiday” Markets, are perfect for prepping for your holiday gatherings. With 35 vendors, shoppers can check out five meat vendors, five bakeries and eleven produce farms and more. Farm-fresh products include pasture-raised meats, eggs, honey, cheese, greens, carrots, potatoes, turnips, radishes, apples, and winter squashes. Regionally-produced baked goods, Illinois wine, craft beer, coffee, and other unique local gifts are also available.

Find out if what you’re shopping for is available at the next indoor Market

Another happy customer!

While it’s often believed that farmers in central Illinois aren’t able to grow produce throughout the winter, advances in season-extension technology, such as hoop houses, have given farmers the ability to continue to grow products even in sub-freezing environments. Some crops, like spinach and kale, actually benefit from the colder temperatures, producing more sugars and a sweeter flavor.

THANKSGIVING TURKEY PRE-ORDERS

Customers looking to pick up a Thanksgiving turkey can pre-order from Garden Gate Farm. The turkeys are pasture-raised with non-GMO feed and range in size between 11 and 24 lbs. They are priced at $4.00/lb. and can be ordered via email or by phone 815-848-3518.

DOUBLE VALUE LINK PROGRAM

LINK cards are accepted, and the Double Value Program offered by the Old Capitol Farmers Market is still available thanks to grants from the State Treasurer’s Charitable Trust Program and LinkUp Illinois. LINK recipients will receive a $25 match to use on fresh fruits and vegetables. This means LINK recipients can swipe their card for $25 and receive an additional $25 to use on produce, doubling their purchasing power and making wholesome holiday meals available to families across Springfield.

PARKING

Parking is free on the streets of downtown Springfield during the indoor markets and the parking garage next to the Convention Center is one block away.

UPCOMING DATES

The indoor Market dates are: Saturday, December 21; Saturday, January 18; Saturday, February 15; Saturday, March 21; and Saturday, April 18.

MADE POSSIBLE BY GENEROUS SPONSORS

The Old Capitol Farmers Market is a free, 12 month activity that is organized by Downtown Springfield Inc., in partnership with premier sponsor HSHS St. John’s Hospital. Other sponsors include Development Services Group, Community Bankers Association of Illinois, State Treasurer’s Charitable Trust Grant Program, LinkUp Illinois, Junior League of Springfield, Bank of Springfield, The Baker Group, SpringfieldMoms.org, West Central Bank, Davis Financial Group, Central Baptist Church and the City of Springfield.

Halloween Comes Early Downtown

Especially on Saturday, October 26, this year’s Halloween activities in the downtown neighborhood provide…an overwhelming number of choices! Whether you have kids, still feel like a kid, or want to be away from kids, we have you covered. Read on and get your costumes finalized!

Halloween at the Market 9-12:30 pm

Wrap up the summer season with what Illinois Times readers call the “Best Reason to Visit Downtown” – the Old Capitol Farmers Market. DSI, SpringfieldMoms.org, Bank of Springfield and friends host this annual free event, which includes costume contests (with cash prizes) for kids, families and dogs. Free kids activities. See who’s selling this day at the Market.

Halloween at Kidzeum 10 am – 5 pm

Come play with fun, Halloween-themed activities going on all day PLUS $1 off the price of admission for anyone in costume.

Halloween Carnival at the Hoogland 11 am – 5 pm

This family-friendly carnival that supports the Young Artist Fund for scholarships has grown BIGGER this year with haunted houses for older kids and a special “Frozen” Haunted House for younger kids. Enjoy carnival booths with prizes and candy, performances of your favorite Halloween songs and check out everyone’s costumes.

Parents, relax and enjoy a fall beverage while the kids experience The Frog Jump, Toy Story Plinko, Pin the Heart on the Tin Man, and the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Trick or Treat at the Governor’s Mansion & City Safe Halloween Event on the Y Block 4 – 6 pm

These free events include generous amounts of candy, the ability to climb through the city’s large vehicles and more. Plus check out the Great Pumpkin Display while trick-or-treating at the Governor’s Mansion.

Nu-Voh Celebrates First Anniversary and Gives You 20% Off 4 – 10 pm

An adult way to celebrate the holiday weekend. Enjoy drink specials as well. Entree selections include a 16-ounce bone-in pork chop, gnocchi, 8-ounce filet mignon, 10-ounce grilled sirloin and pan-seared salmon or tuna.

Trick or Treat at the Old State Capitol 5-7 pm

More candy and fun activities before the parade starts!

The Incubator Celebrates First Anniversary with Halloween Bash 5 pm – 3 am

The Incubator is hosting its 2nd Annual Halloween party, featuring some of its favorite bands and DJs plus its new late night menu and drink specials.

Family Friendly Italian Dinner 6-9 pm

Grab some dinner and also stop by La Piazza Cucina Italiana on 6th Street to pick up coupons for kids 12 and under, to enjoy a slice of cheese pizza and soft drink for only $1.

Monsters Ball at 7 pm

Sangamo Club is hosting this special event for members and their guests.

The Parent Place 3rd Annual Halloween Parade at 7:30 pm

Check out the Beetlejuice-themed float by Downtown Springfield businesses and 41 other spooky, lighted entries.

Rocky Horror 10th Anniversary Show at 8 pm and 11:30 pm

So awesome, one of the performers had her eyelids still stuck together with glitter the next morning. ADHD Productions and HCFTA present the famous rock and roll musical about a “Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual Transylvania” live on stage.

Check out other coming downtown activities on our calendar.

DSI Supports the Center for Health & Housing

The DSI Board of Directors, representing 150 business members in the downtown and adjacent neighborhoods, unanimously supports the proposed Center for Health and Housing.

It is true that Downtown Businesses are often the most adversely affected by the perceptions of visitors to a large homeless population. Yet what we believe is most compelling about the proposed Center is that it doesn’t just “move the problem around;” its approach will actually break the cycle of homelessness. This is a win for these individuals and a win for our community at large.

In addition, the Center makes sense fiscally, and will save our community thousands of dolalrs in emergency, police and other services. The selected site is located near other social agency resources and is within walking distance of the downtown hub where many individuals experiencing homelessness spend a considerable amount of time. The selected site has been vacant, there is no other tenant on the horizon, and it is perfectly suited for this purpose.

The Center for Health and Housing is a huge step forward for our community’s response to homelessness and we should embrace this opportunity to transform our approach.

To download our statement of support.

To follow the Center for Health and Housing on Facebook.

To educate yourself on the myths and stereotypes about people experiencing homelessness.

Music Series Fostered Community Pride and Spurred Positive Conversation about the Y Block

Not surprisingly, the number one reason that attendees to this summer’s Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series presented by PNC Bank would return to the south side of the Y Block was for a permanent bandshell or concert venue.

More than 7,700 people attended the ten-week, free music series held on the vacant lot adjacent to the Illinois Governor’s Mansion hosted by organizers Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation, Downtown Springfield Inc and Springfield Area Arts Council. The two goals for the local organizers, which won them a $25,000 matching grant from the Levitt Foundation, were to bring Springfield’s diverse neighborhoods together in one central location, and to bring the public into the discussion about the future of the Y Block.

Local partners jumped on board, with PNC Bank leading the way as premier sponsor of the series. Other top sponsors included Isringhausen Imports, Illinois REALTORS, US Bank, LRS and the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. Top in-kind sponsors included all three radio groups coming together under the Radio Matters banner, Springfield Park District, Wyndham Springfield City Centre, Star Graphics, Republic Services, and the City of Springfield, who made physical improvements to the space so that people could bring blankets and lawn chairs to the concerts and provided waste and police services.

Nearly five hundred attendees took the time to fill out a survey about their desires for the future of the block and their downtown habits. The next three most popular responses for “reasons why you would return regularly” were, in order, food truck park, gardens, and/or a dog park.

Download the Levitt Music Series Attendee Count & Survey Analysis

The goal to provide an inclusive, safe place for all members of the community to come together was accomplished. This year’s attendees generally mirrored the demographics of the City of Springfield, according to the US Census. To personally invite African American families to the series, we partnered with UAct, a local non-profit, who made a total of 117 contacts with people in 59 east side entities. The Latino attendance was actually a higher percentage than Springfield’s Latino population, thanks to outreach by Salsa Ambassador Julio Barrenzuela. The Asian population was somewhat underrepresented.

Photo Credit: Brian Bowles

The family-friendly atmosphere was evident. Nearly 60 percent of surveyed attendees came with their family. Forty-seven percent came with friends. More than a quarter of surveyed attendees brought at least one child with them to the concerts. And tellingly, eight percent of those surveyed came by themselves, which indicates the venue felt safe and welcoming.

Regarding the future of the block, the City Council recently passed an ordinance which supports placing a downtown campus of UIS and SIU on or near the Y Block.

Springfield intends to submit a renewal application for a 2020 Levitt AMP Springfield Music Series, which is due September 20. Follow Levitt AMP Springfield to stay up to date.

Downtown Springfield Inc has a policy position on the future of the Y Block. Read it here: North Mansion Block Updated 2019 Policy

An Art Deco Gem

In honor of our first Architectural Walking Tour of the season, which takes place on Wednesday, May 1, Cinda Ackerman Klickna contributed this blog post about the 88-year-old building which houses the organization that she led for six years as President.

The Illinois Education Association building at 100 E. Edwards is one of the finest examples of Art Deco architecture in downtown Springfield. Built in 1931 by Rockford architects Horn and Sandburg, it houses the offices of the largest union in Illinois. The IEA, with a current membership of 133,000, includes teachers and support staff, Pre-K through higher ed, plus retired members and students studying to become teachers.

IEA has a long history, starting as the Illinois State Teachers’ Institute in 1853. A constitution was written with the preamble explaining why the association was needed: “…believing that the organization of a State Teachers’ Institute is not only essential to raise the standard of teaching but conducive to the promotion of the of the greatest diffusion of knowledge throughout our
State.”

Membership grew over the years after many conventions with as many as 5000 teachers attending and with support of the legislature. In 1857, by an act of the Illinois Legislature, the name was changed to the Illinois State Teachers’ Association. The Association had by then helped to establish the Superintendent of Public Instruction as a regular full-time elected office (today the position is appointed by the Governor). In 1857, the Association helped establish Illinois State Normal University. It wasn’t until 1936 that the name became what it is today, the Illinois Education Association, because membership grew to include more than teachers.

By the 1920s, a small office served the membership; in 1925, the delegates to the annual meeting called the Representative approved money for the purchase of land and construction of a building in Springfield. A location with close proximity to the State Capitol was important so that legislative work could be continued.

Two lots on Edwards Street were purchased for $15,000. A two-story building was completed in 1931, named the William Bishop Owen Building in honor of the association’s former president who had worked to establish a permanent headquarters. The building cost $45,300.

The architects, Horn and Sandburg, designed a box-shaped structure using Indiana limestone. The facade has never changed. Four fluted carved columns rise two stories and are capped with a sunrise and geometric design. The sunrise and geometric pattern is repeated above the entrance.

Expansion occurred in 1953; the Centennial Addition was so named in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Association. The two-story addition on the back end, costing $134,000, added much needed space for offices and meetings. And in 1960, another addition, creating a “T,” was added to the back.  The ell wing, extending to the east, was added in the 1980’s.

Although the interior has been modernized with new windows, lighting, and air systems throughout the years, some parts of the original building can still be seen. Stairwells with wood railings, woodwork around glass panels, heavy doors, old radiators and grill vents add charm to the building.

IEA, a non-profit member of Downtown Springfield Inc., continues its original mission: to improve the quality of teaching by raising issues, working on legislation that helps students and raising the awareness of the needs of students and educators for successful public schools in every community.

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