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.

All the Deets for Open Streets

For the second year, DSI is hosting Downtown Open Streets presented by Memorial Health System!! The event takes place on the paved streets around the Old State Capitol on Saturday, May 4 “May the Fourth Be With You” from 11-3, so there’s plenty of time to participate and watch the Kentucky Derby later that day….

Open Streets temporarily opens streets to people and closes them to cars. People can travel the loop from Washington Street to 5th to Monroe Street to 6th on their bikes, skateboards, skates, by foot or otherwise and enjoy the activity hubs on the “spokes” around the Old State Capitol and on Monroe and Adams.

Mosquito Joe “Outside is Fun Again” and a bevy of Springfield organizations will be providing health, fitness & FUN activities for all ages — ALL FOR FREE!

Old State Capitol Plaza

The first 200 attendees at the event will get a free drawstring backpack/shopping bag by visiting the DSI Information Booth on the Old State Capitol Plaza. Maps and times of all of the activities will also be available. Families should also stop by the Ace Bike Shop Corral on 6th at Adams Street to be entered in a drawing for an adolescent’s bike valued at $239. The drawing for the bike will be held at 1:30 pm right before the Bicycle Parade that starts at 6th and Washington.

Plus, “check out” new and gently used paperbacks and hardbacks for free from Land of Lincoln Bookshare.

5th Street between Washington and Monroe

Check your health knowledge and your blood pressure with Memorial; get a first look at Springfield’s coming BikeShare program, Gotcha; play bingo with Girls on the Run; practice Yoga with Willow City Farm’s goats and puppies; watch a performance by Dance Creations Dance Studio; do some crafts with Lincoln Memorial Garden; and learn about roller derby from the MidState Mayhem Roller Derby women’s team and Capital City Hooligans men’s teams.

Adams Street between 4th and 5th

Get ready for the 1:30 pm Bicycle Parade by decorating your bike with US Kiddos and Central Baptist Church; play “old-school” playground games in front of the Kidzeum; and get your portrait taken at the Curtain and Leaf booth.

Adams Street between 6th and 7th

Park your bike for free at the Ace Bike Shop Bike Corral and register for a childrens’ bike giveaway; stop by The Pharmacy Gallery & Art Space for the 2 pm public ribbon cutting; and test your abilities at Springfield Bicycle Club’s fun obstacle course.

6th and Washington Streets

Participate in the “Bicycle Parade”  at 1:30 pm; enjoy a performance by Springfield Youth Performance Group; take a free boot camp class every half hour with 180 Fitness; sign up to start running with Springfield Road Runners Club with their Abe’s Army program; watch experienced skateboarders in a Ramp Jam hosted by Boof City Skate Shop or learn tips for beginners; and make wind chimes with Wild Rose.

6th and Monroe Streets

Enjoy a Plant It bar with succulents and air plants with The Roost; make on-demand screen-printed T-shirts at Murphy’s Loft; look at APL animals to adopt with Studio on Sixth, enjoy 50% off select items in the store, and participate in Studio’s Sidewalk Chalk Drawing Contest, with prizes for every participant.

Monroe Street between 4th and 7th

Take free classes provided by the YMCA including street hockey, basketball, zumba spin class, and more; sit on the street in Custom Cup’s colorful tables and chairs; and enjoy a live band performance on an outdoor stage thanks to Dumb Records.

Get up-t0-the-minute posts on DSI’s Facebook event page.

Three Questions for the Candidates

Election season is almost over, and before you roll your eyes, consider how important it is that we elect people from every ward who understand the value of a revitalized downtown. The City of Springfield is DSI’s primary partner in the work that we do, and the work that we do benefits the entire city, any which way you look at it: whether tax base, corporate and medical recruitment,  making our young people want to come home, building out an entrepreneurial culture.

So first, we thanked the men and women who are running to make a difference in Springfield. It takes a lot of personal time, patience, caring and perseverance to run for elected office.

Then — we asked them three questions. The topics were:
1) future of the Y Block,
2) TIF Policy and
3) partnership with DSI.

Read the candidates’ responses here.

Voting ends at 7 pm on Tuesday, April 2. If you haven’t cast your ballot yet, the County Clerk’s office in the Sangamon County Courthouse on 9th Street is open all weekend for early voting. Download the hours here.

Meet our Farmers Market Team

Hey, Farmers Market fans! We’d like you to introduce you to Mollie Ringer, DSI’s Market Manager for the 20th season of the Old Capitol Farmers Market.

A lifelong resident of Springfield, Mollie’s enthusiasm for working for nonprofit organizations started in college at Illinois State University where she completed an internship with the Children’s Discovery Museum. There she found passion working with youth and fundraising for the community.

Mollie’s non-profit resume includes the Appalachia Service Project, Illinois Grape Growers and Vintner’s Association, and most recently, Hope. She has also been active as a volunteer for DSI events.

“Coming from a farming family, I am very excited to have the opportunity to connect farmers with local consumers and to educate the community about the available healthy products and produce right in their backyard,” says Mollie.

Mollie will be joined on Market Days by Market Assistant Kailey Connour, who graduated from UIS in August with a BA in Environmental Studies. Kailey’s interests include sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, and anything to do with the Ocean (as her long-time goals include working with marine wildlife). “Springfield has been my home for the past three years and I’m excited to see the extra steps that the city is taking towards a better city and a greater environment,” said Kailey.

The Market management team will oversee a 12-month calendar which includes the Old Capitol Farmers Market from May 18-October 26; two Holiday Markets in November and December; and a monthly Winter Market from January – April 2020.

This is the first year that DSI has taken on the role of producing a year-round market, taking over day-to-day management of the Holiday Markets and Winter Markets which were started by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, in addition to the summer-time Old Capitol Farmers Market, which has been managed by DSI since 1999.

The vendor application for the 2019 Old Capitol Farmers Market is now live.

Some Market dates to jot down on your calendar:

May 18 – Grand Opening of the Old Capitol Farmers Market

July 20 – Kids Day at the Market/Kidzeum One-Year Anniversary

September 5 – Friends of the Market Street Dinner (tickets go on sale in July)

October 26 – Halloween at the Market

Calling Artists for 2019 Art Alley Challenge

Artist Immanuel Ahiable greeting friends and family during our first Art Alley Pop Up.

This year’s Art Alley III Pop Up takes place on Saturday, September 14 — with a twist. Seven selected artists or artistic teams will “compete” by completing a mural in only one day. As night falls, we’ll gather for our Pop Up Party, where guests can vote for their favorite mural — so that we can give the artists prizes! — and to celebrate Springfield’s artistic community.

Tickets are not yet available but all proceeds will benefit DSI’s ARTification Public Art Program.

The Call for Artists has been released thanks to our partners at Springfield Art Association. Please download the Call for Artists and apply today: Art Alley III Mural Competition Call FINAL

Thank you to our sponsors Solomon Colors and Springfield Electric!

You can get your tickets now!  Click here for more details.

 

 

 

Next Steps: Momentum on Main Street

The kick-off was great — but the more important question is, what happens next?

If you attended…

the Momentum on Main Street Meet-up and Presentation, don’t forget to apply for one of the US Bank scholarships before April 1. Check your email for details!

Free How-To Sessions for Anyone

Wednesday, April 24
4:00pm – 5:30pm, Buzz Bomb Brewery
Turning Your Home Kitchen into a Business and Getting Started at the Farmers Market
RSVP Here
Molly Gleason of Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Mollie Ringer, the Manager of the Old Capitol Farmers Market, will lead this session.

Wednesday, May 29
12:00pm – 1:00pm, Lincoln Library
Permits and City Hall- Who You Need to Know and Where You Need to Go
RSVP Here
Abby Powell, TIF Manager at the City of Springfield, will demystify the process for you.

Wednesday, June 26
4:00pm – 5:30pm, The Incubator
Vacant Building Walk-Through: What To Consider Before You Buy
RSVP Here
Architect Jeff Sommers will show you what to look for when you’re seeking downtown space.

Follow DSI to find out when we schedule the next three sessions on various topics or suggest a topic to the committee via email

Ready to Accelerate Your Idea Using the Co.Starters 9-week series at Innovate Springfield?

The best candidate for the CO.STARTERS program is either someone with a new idea for a business, or an existing business looking to become more sustainable, launch a new product or service, or scale.

Participants will receive guidance for a process to figure out whether or not an idea is good and how to change it to make it work; the ability to better articulate how their businesses work; defined next steps needed to move forward; and a community of peers and support.

Sessions run on Monday evenings from 5:30 PM-8:30 PM. The first cohort begins April 25th. Learn more.

Potential Investors

We’ll be rolling out our next steps to match-make potential investors with good projects in the downtown neighborhood in the coming weeks, based on the Meet-up Survey. Let us know if you’re interested in hearing about potential good investments, we’ll add you to the list.

 

Thank you to the City of Springfield for your investments in DSI’s work which makes the Momentum on Main Street series possible.

Era of Exploration for First Presbyterian Church

A church with historic significance, a grant opportunity, and a group that could help figure out a better way to use 36,000 of underutilized square feet: the First Presbyterian Church at 7th and Capitol, known for its red front door, started off this year with a soul-searching process that could greatly benefit not only the downtown community but all of Springfield.

Flashback nine months ago: Pastor Susan Phillips was only into her new post for a few months and asking normal-new-job questions such as, “Why do we do this? What if we did that?”  Sarah Watson, a parishioner who is the Executive Director of Looking for Lincoln/ A. Lincoln National Heritage Area, read of a grant opportunity through National Heritage that was available for religious groups. The grant could bring in Partners for Sacred Places, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to the preservation and use of historic, religious sites. Phillips and Watson had a conversation.

Pastor Phillips leads a tour of the sanctuary of First Presbyterian Church.

Pastor Phillips says, “Members of the congregation were discussing our future – do we stay downtown and do some renovation, or move to another site? Our church is rooted in history; we cherish our tradition of social justice and have been an incubator of programs. We wanted, though, to look at how we could serve the community in new ways.”

Along with another parishioner, Mary Beth Stephens, the three realized the church was a “hidden gem in downtown,” as Stephens says.

They won the grant, which paid for Sacred Places to lead a community development process that helps identify assets, not only in the church but also in the surrounding community, called Asset Mapping.

Community leaders with a wide range of interests and positions were invited to attend a three-hour Convening session on January 19. The invitees were promised that the session wasn’t a fundraising pitch, but that they needed to bring their “energy and imagination,” Stephens says. “The program was meant to be a jumping off point for the congregation to reach back out to the community, like we used to do.”

The exterior of the oldest part of the church is shored up with beams.

The day of the Convening turned out to be one with inclement weather, but over 40 people showed up anyway. Watson says, “I was thrilled that the group showed up on a snowy, Saturday morning, all with an interest in Springfield and downtown.” The participants toured the church, many amazed at the large number of nooks and crannies–and potential. They then broke into groups to identify strengths and resources and list assets of the community, the church, and the neighborhood.

Phillips, Watson, and Stephens all share that the meeting led to wonderful discussion. People developed potential ideas how the church’s space could be used to address community needs and even started to collaborate on ideas beyond what might happen at the church itself. For example, the fact that the church’s sanctuary is 150 years old and the Lincoln family pew is on display in the lobby made attendees say that the church should include more about the Lincoln connection in Springfield tourism. (Fun fact: Only Eagle Scouts may sit on the pew.)

Ideas for space included renting out rooms for meetings, a hang-out for legislators,  space for artists-in-residence, tapping into the Homeless Outreach Team, offering counseling for homeless, and providing trainings or classes. “Whatever is decided,” Phillips says, “these activities need to help us partner in broader, deeper ways to better serve people and the community.”

To be fully utilized, the church needs renovation. There are many sections that are inaccessible and not up to ADA code. But, there are many rooms. Water availability in many rooms would make it possible to host art classes. There are offices and a library, a commons area connected to a kitchen and a kitchenette, a lounge, computer lab, even a movie theater room. Sacred Places will ultimately help the congregation figure out how the space could be upgraded and re-purposed for today’s community needs.

The next step is to present the asset mapping ideas and discussion to the congregation, receive input, review, reflect and then decide which direction(s) to take. Phillips calls this in-between period, “Rooted and Reaching.” By the end of the Sacred Places process, the congregation will have determined how to, once again, use its beautiful, historic home base to its fullest potential, reaching out to the community and partnering with other organizations.

Stephens adds, “We know it will take time, and we don’t want to lose momentum. This is a wonderful thing we’ve started.”

Cinda Ackerman Klickna is sharing her talents with the downtown community by contributing interesting stories to our blog. First Presbyterian Church is a non-profit member of DSI.

Congrats to Our “Best Of” 2018 Nominees

Our 2017 Best Restaurant, Long Nine Junction, has a big 2019 in store — with their first child on the way in March, and the recent announcement of their Top 20 ranking among all restaurants in the US by Yelp.

Each year, Downtown Springfield Inc., the downtown business association and neighborhood revitalization champion comes together as a community for the organization’s Annual Dinner, which takes place on Wed., January 23, 2019 at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel a Doubletree by Hilton. Thanks to the Doubletree and our Co-Host sponsors, AT&T and Watts Copy Systems.

Although tickets are no longer available, fans of downtown can still support DSI’s revitalization work by bidding on our Silent Auction, which is available online. You’ll get minute-by-minute updates on the status of the items you want to bid on by going to https://dsiawards.givesmart.com. Thanks to the Illinois REALTORS for sponsoring our Silent Auction system this year!

The highlight of the Dinner is the Annual “Best Of” Awards presented to the people and businesses who were the most buzzworthy in the prior year. The public nominated every category, and then the nominations were all vetted by a DSI committee consisting of current members and Past Presidents of the organization.

DSI does not release names of nominees of the Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement Award, the DSI Volunteer of the Year Award, or the Downtown Advocate Award. This year, DSI will present a special Bicentennial Award as well.

DSI is proud to announce the following 2018 nominees:

Best Retail
The Roost
Studio on 6th
Wild Rose

Best Restaurant
VELE
Maldaner’s
Long Nine Junction

Best Night Life
Buzz Bomb Brewery
Floyd’s Thirst Parlor
Hoogland Center for the Arts

Best Event
Old Capitol Blues & BBQ
Springfield Jaycees Xmas Parade
Legacy of Giving Music Festival

Best Creative Promotion
#AdamsFamily by Mark Forinash, Cafe Moxo
Dumb Records’ Record of the Night/Moving
Obed & Isaac’s Bus Wine Tour

Green Leadership
Maldaner’s/Michael Higgins
Kevin Greene, Springfield Bicycle Advisory Council
Wind Solar USA

Best Overall Renovation
St. George Apartments – Josh Wagoner
Anvil & Forge
Willow & Birch

Impactful Public/Private Partnership
Innovate Springfield/ University of Illinois Springfield
Obed & Isaac’s/Fire Dept/MMC Burn Unit Station – One Porter event
Kidzeum/City of Springfield

Best Not-For-Profit Initiative
Gift of Hope’s Banner Campaign
Lincoln Library’s Homeless Outreach
PCASA’s Dare to be Different Fashion Show

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