Got an Idea? We’ve Got Momentum On Main Street

DSI is a Main Street organization, which means it organizes it activities around four pillars of revitalization: Design, Promotions, Organization and Economic Vitality.

Today’s Downtown Springfield knows that growth will only happen by undertaking economic development activities that fill the smaller vacant properties and build new foot traffic, activities that have also attracted a new generation of volunteers to work alongside DSI staff to #GSD.  

Momentum on Main Street is an initiative that grew out of DSI’s Economic Vitality committee earlier this year to help educate and empower the next generation of entrepreneurs, investors and property developers.

“We really aimed to highlight and build off the positives that are already happening downtown,” said David Lee, a medical salesperson and downtown revitalization advocate who chairs the Momentum committee. “We’ve quickly gotten a lot of interest; it obviously was a message people could get behind. We’re hoping the workshops, conversations, and connections that are happening will give people the tools, and confidence, to do their project or business that they’ve been dreaming about.”

The Momentum on Main Street launch event was held March 21 at Arlington’s. More than 100 people attended to hear from current business owners about their experiences setting up shop in the downtown district and to network. All of the attendees to this free event, sponsored by the City of Springfield and US Bank, were invited to apply for scholarships either to take their business concept to the next level, or to attend an Incremental Development Alliance workshop to learn how to take on a property redevelopment without using subsidies.

CO.STARTERS SCHOLARSHIPS

Attendees at the kick-off event had the opportunity to apply for a Co.Starters scholarship, sponsored by US Bank. Co.Starters is a national nine-week program that began in Chattanooga, TN to help communities “build vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystems by equipping them with the best tools and resources needed.” Co.Starters in Springfield is hosted by Innovate Springfield, UIS’ business incubator located in the heart of downtown.

Then in June, Innovate Springfield hosted their first Co.Starters Pitch Event to hear from the ten participants in the first cohort. Five of the Co.Starters cohort members received the US 

Bank scholarships as part of the Momentum on Main Street program:

  • Sarah Stahly – Sweet Scoops
  • Patrick Russell – Curtain & Leaf
  • Dayton Burntett – Trans4orm
  • Liz Hiller – Thirtsty’s Taproom
  • Thomas Phinney –  Cafe on the Rocks

Three of the Momentum “scholars” are looking to create new brick-and-mortar experiences. Sarah Stahly began her business Sweet Scoops by looking to put a unique spin on ice cream. Her ice cream choices include non-dairy and vegan. She uses substitutes like coconut milk and almond milk to make delicious flavor combinations such as Strawberry Banana & Ruby Basil or Chocolate Peanut Butter Fried Banana.

Liz Hiller had the idea for Thirsty’s Taproom, a crossroads for everything craft beer, after living in places like Chicago and North Carolina and experiencing their craft beer scene. Lately, Central Illinois has caught the craft beer bug and the movement has centered in downtown with spots like Obed & Isaac’s, Buzz Bomb Brewing Co., and Anvil & Forge Brewing. Thirsty’s Taproom would serve as a spot for patrons to try all of their favorite craft beers in one location. Thirsty’s Taproom would be a family friendly atmosphere with an emphasis on enjoying great beer and community.

Thomas Phinney, an avid rock climbing expert, and his wife Ruth plan to open an indoor “bouldering cafe” in downtown. On The Rocks Bouldering would help increase Springfield’s knowledge of bouldering, which is rock climbing without the assistance of a harness. Ultimately the business would lead regular bouldering tours in the western U.S. 

DSI’s Momentum on Main Street will be providing five more scholarships for the next Co.Starters cohort in September. If you have a great new business idea and are ready to do the work to make it a reality, fill out the application now.

FREE FOLLOW UP SESSIONS

Since the launch event, DSI has held one-hour informational sessions on a variety of related subjects, with the goal of hosting six related topics during 2019. The first covered how to start your business by selling at the Farmers Market. The second was hosted at the Lincoln Public Library and featured a panel of city staff demystifying the process of permits and licensing. 

The third Momentum on Main Street event was an interactive walking tour led by architect and owner of Square Root Architecture + Design, Jeff Sommers, to help participants discern what is needed when one buys a downtown building. He was joined by a banker and two realtors. Mark Nelson and Ed Mahoney are with Re/Max professionals. Ed has worked as a realtor in Springfield for over 30 years and was on the founding board for DSI. 

The next Momentum free session is on July 30th at Anvil and Forge Brewing. The session will be led by Lauren Silkowski of US Bank and Lashonda Fitch of Justine Petersen and will provide attendees with ideas for how to achieve financing for a business start-up. More details to follow.

 

Shop Hop with Mary Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln (as portrayed by Pam Brown) takes you on a shopping tour of downtown Springfield.

Mary Lincoln, Mrs. Fashionista of her time, is leading a weekly Saturday Shop Hop tour right in her home neighborhood of Downtown Springfield. 

Mary Lincoln’s Shop Hop is a free program that is part of Visit Springfield’s History Comes Alive. Participants can get the one-of-a-kind experience to shop with a First Lady meet the owners of downtown boutiques, and discover the work of Springfield’s talented craftspeople and artists. 

The shopping tours take place every Saturday during History Comes Alive (through August 10). Just meet at 11 am at the Springfield Visitors Center, located at the Lincoln-Herdon Law office at 6th and Adams Streets. Shop Hop tours run 45 minutes and consist of three downtown shops. 

Mary Lincoln is the inspiration for the Shop Hop because of her knack for fashion and love of shopping during her time in Springfield and DC. She was known to own beautiful gowns, usually only purchased when Abraham Lincoln was out of town. During the mid-1850’s in Springfield, it would not have been uncommon to see Mary Lincoln at locations like John William’s general store or in the shop of dressmaker Mrs. Labarthe. She was known to own a dress that cost more than two month’s pay for a typical Springfield family of the time.

Credit: Getty Images

In addition to her beautiful dresses, the bonnets that Mary Lincoln would wear also verified her fashionista status. Mary could have been seen wear decorative bonnets with long sashes that were typically made by the French. 

Even when the Lincolns moved to Washington, D.C., Mary kept up her lavish fashion life. She was known to wear brilliant outfits that resembled the likes of European women of the time. She was often referred to as “The Illinois Reine” because she resembled royalty.

Mary Lincoln’s Shop Hop is a wonderful way to learn a little more about our 16th President’s First Lady and get a little shopping in at the same time. Where else but downtown could you experience this historic mashup? 

Thank you to our partners at Visit Springfield, Mary Lincoln’s Shop Hop possible!

 

A Downtown Resource: How the Davis Family Has Helped Shape Our Neighborhood

On the corner of Fourth and Adams sits Resource One, office design specialists and a supplier of quality furniture. Resource One has operated out of their location at 321 E Adams Street since 1992. You could say that their location and industry gave them literal “front row seats” to how the downtown area has developed over the last three decades; the truth is that both generations of the family-run business have also spent countless hours helping to mold downtown’s future.  

As they have grown their business, Cindy Davis and two of her children Lauren and Chris have also volunteered alongside other business owners and advocates to make the neighborhood a more active and interesting place.

Cindy Davis is the co-founder and CEO of Resource One. She served as a DSI board member and Board President in 2003-2004. She can be credited with helping to bring two of DSI’s most interesting and longstanding tours to fruition. The story goes that Cindy attended a Main Street conference in Elgin, where the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency’s Anthony Rubano — a Springfieldian — led participants on a tour of Elgin’s downtown. Of course, DSI needed to replicate the experience in our own historic downtown and started with one walking tour a year. Now, thanks to its popularity, each summer from May to October, on the first Wednesday of the month, Anthony leads DSI’s free Architectural Walking Tour.

Cindy also worked as a board member with DSI’s first full-time executive director, Valicia Crisafulli, to develop the Upper Story Tour. A few weeks ago, DSI hosted its 19th tour of upper story commercial and residential spaces that are not always open to the general public. The event also serves as a fundraiser for DSI’s work to match property owners with potential tenants and to help manage the shift in ownership which happens every generation.

Cindy’s son, Chris Davis, is in sales and Business Development at Resource One. Following in his mother’s footsteps in both business and volunteer time, Chris started getting involved when DSI privately fundraised for and implemented a creative placemaking project on the Old State Capitol Plaza. Thanks to private donations, DSI worked with the City to hang cafe lighting, provide colorful tables and chairs, and bags games and a ping-pong table. DSI shopped local as they always try to do and Chris helped determine the appropriate design and colors for the tables and chairs. After several meetings to discuss the activation project, Chris came away as an advocate for trying new concepts and not being afraid of change.

Chris then joined the Economic Vitality committee; one of their subcommittees created the Momentum on Main Street program, which is geared to attract the next generation of entrepreneurs, investors and property developers. Chris and the other committee members brought corporate, educational and city interests together to demystify the process to invest in downtown. The next free Momentum session is July 30th to provide information about financing options. 

While the Davis family certainly is proud to have made Resource One a family business, they have also helped to welcome others in the downtown neighborhood as family. When describing what is most enjoyable about their downtown location, Chris says, “It’s the downtown family. We take pride in each other’s businesses and we take ownership in each other’s businesses. We share problems, challenges and victories. And I feel like we are starting to enjoy more and more victories.”

 

Kids Day at the Market

DSI’s Old Capitol Farmers Market presented by HSHS St. John’s Hospital encourages kids and their parents to come interact with the market and learn healthy habits during Kids Day at the Market. The event takes place during the Old Capitol Farmers Market from 8:00 am- 12:30 pm on Saturday, July 20th. There will be activities throughout the morning in the US Bank Parking lot located at Fourth and Adams. 

The first 500 kids to arrive at Kids Day will receive a $2 token that they may use to purchase a treat at participating market vendors. Kids Day is free to the public because of the generosity of sponsors including Davis Financial Group, West Central Bank, and The Baker Group.

Kids Day at the Market is in partnership with Kidzeum in celebration of their one year anniversary of opening their doors last summer. The Kidzeum website has a full list of anniversary activities. Kidzeum will be open from 10:00am-5:00pm to the general public.

Kids Day at the Market promotes healthy choices through activity stations like a yoga session with Ah Yoga at 9:00 am and a Chef Demonstration with Chef Michael Higgins from Maldaner’s Restaurant at 9:30 am. There will also be an interactive arts project for kids courtesy of Phoenix Collision providing a car for kids to mosaic. The Springfield Youth Performance Group will perform at 10:30 am. 

Numerous children-focused groups and organizations, including the Junior League of Springfield, Northside Children’s Community Library, GenHKids, Central Baptist Church, Lincoln Library, and the Abraham Lincoln Council Boy Scouts of America will also be attending to provide fun, free activities on Kids Day.

We encourage kids and their families to attend the Old Capitol Farmers Market, not only on Kids Day, but all season long on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8:00 am to 12:30 pm at 4th and Adams.

 

 

Plants Native to Illinois Help Beautify Downtown

(not in order pictured) Volunteers Grace Norris, Susan Helm, Patty Morton, Erin Svendsen, Michael Higgins and Kathy Wright

A group of volunteers spent a recent Wednesday morning helping to beautify downtown with plants native to Illinois.

The idea bubbled up from members of DSI’s Design Committee, who worked with master gardener Susan Helm to develop a plan and find grant funding to conduct a pilot program in downtown’s planters.

A key member of the group is Michael Higgins, who recently won a Sustainable Springfield award for the work he’s done to utilize his Maldaner’s Restaurant rooftop to achieve sustainable goals, including installing solar panels, a beehive and a native plant container to support native pollinators. Energy use at the restaurant has been reduced by 20% over the past five years. Take-out containers are provided in compostable containers and most recently plastic straws were replaced with paper straws, the first downtown business to make the switch.

For the downtown planters project, Higgins, Helm and Erin Svendsen of SAA collaborated with the Illinois Native Plant Society, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and the City of Springfield to develop their plan. They successfully won a grant from the Springfield Civic Garden Club, which donated proceeds its Annual Plant Sale to garden-related projects for a charitable organization.

The newly-planted planters will beautify the downtown area but also serve two other important functions: saving the City of Springfield money by utilizing perennials and attracting pollinators, which are an important part of the ecosystem and have been diminishing. The different species of plants used range from flowers like Coneflower and Poppy Mallow to plants like White Sage and Prairie Dropseed. Along with these plants native to Illinois, the downtown planters project added herbs for texture and pollinator value.

Each pot is essentially an entire pollinator garden. You can find them on both sides of 6th Street from Monroe to Adams Street. They are also on Adams Street between 6th and 7th Streets. Depending on the success of this first pilot project, look for an expansion to other planters in the downtown area in the coming years.

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