Spotlight: Youngest Holiday Pop-Up Proprietor

As part of its focus on economic vitality, DSI facilitated a number of pop-up stores for the Holiday Walks again this year, to launch new entrepreneurs and highlight great downtown first-floor commercial spaces that deserve a permanent tenant. The pop-ups are possible because of generous property owners who worked with DSI to provide no-cost, low-cost or utilities-only leases for the five weeks of the Walks.

Read more about the other six downtown Holiday Walk pop-ups>

Proprietor Aaliyah Kissick meets the Lincolns during Small Business Saturday. Her pop up is open thru the Walks.

The youngest “proprietor” of our 2017 pop-up program is a 17-year-old senior at Athens High School, who is building on the legacy of the Myers Brothers Department Store at Washington & Fifth by trying out a brick-and-mortar experience in the former Mens Department.

Aaliyah Kissick started AK Boutique, an online retail outlet featuring modern, trendy clothes in June 2017 with support from friends and family. “The Boutique combines two of my great loves: deals and fashion,” says the former Miss Jr.  Teen Illinois and in-demand model (including at the Dare to be Different Fashion Show in August which highlighted twelve downtown stores with women’s clothing). “My motto is ‘We take the work out of thrifting for you’ so you don’t have to be overwhelmed or worried you won’t find something perfect for you,” she says. The clothes she hand-picks for sale are all popular within the last three years, with most items under $15.

Aaliyah has been drawn to the retail world as early as she can remember. She says that since she was about three feet tall, she always made a beeline toward the clearance sections of clothing stores with the natural inclination to organize the jungle of disorganized, packed racks.

After a brief stint working at a local clothing store, she knew she could put her own personal stamp and style on a retail venture. Her emphasis is on making every “body” look beautiful and taking the guesswork out of thrifting for her customers.

Her personal goal with AK Boutique has been to save as much as she can to attend college for a business degree. The opportunity to branch out as a brick-and-mortar for the holidays was an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up, both for the experience and the potential to increase her sales.

AK Boutique offers:
-Sizes XXS to 5X
-Long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, holiday dresses, casual dresses, jeans, dress pants, leggings, skirts, shoes, and purses
-Friendly, helpful staff

Her goal after college? To open a permanent retail boutique in Springfield, of course!

Fashion Show on December 9

On Saturday, December 9, AK Boutique will be hosting a fashion show at 2 pm in the pop-up located at 101 S 5th Street (Washington Street Entrance) and everyone is encouraged to come and check out the available clothing and styled looks. “The models will be local girls with natural beauty to celebrate body positivity,” says Aaliyah.

About the Space

This is the second year that the Myers Brothers Building has hosted a pop-up in the first floor space. It has a beautiful interior and a great history. After decades as one of the city’s top shopping destinations, Myers Brothers Department Store sold out to Bergner’s in 1979, which operated in that location until it moved out to the mall in 1986. AG Edwards had their offices there from 1987-97, and then the non-profit Illinois Assistive Technology Program moved to Spring Street in 2015. To inquire about leasing the space, contact Myers Commercial Realty.

 

What the Comp Plan Says About Downtown

Rather than attempting to stamp suburbia on our historic downtown as previous comprehensive plans did, “Forging a New Legacy,” Springfield’s new comprehensive plan, allows the community to recognize the uniqueness of each area and the opportunities (and challenges) that go with that uniqueness.

Can Springfield forge ahead with vision as the title of the newest comprehensive plan supposes? Only time will tell.

The plan, now available for public review, makes long-overdue and much-needed updates to the most recent version from 2000.

Although this new plan includes major transportation arterials that were described in previous versions (a strong nod toward outward growth), it does attempt to help steer our focus and attention back toward the center.

“Forging a New Legacy” highlights an increasingly relevant issue: rate of growth. The plan projects that Springfield will grow at around 10 percent over 20 years, or one-half of one percent per year. This conservative (and likely realistic) view on the rate of growth is important because it draws our attention back to preserving what the plan refers to as “legacy neighborhoods.”

By preserving legacy neighborhoods, the costs to city government do not rise as sharply over time (increased roadway maintenance, fire protection coverage, sewerage, etc.). The call for neighborhood master plans, including (and especially) in the central business district, is an opportunity for Springfield to address smaller details that are not necessarily at issue in other parts of the city.

In a similar vein, the comprehensive plan also includes direction for what it calls “special areas,” as well as proposed “opportunities.” These special areas should demand a greater focus, and the authors recognize that additional details must be worked out in accordance with some general principles set forth in the overall plan.

Also of interest to fans of downtown — the plan makes the assumption that railroad relocation will occur and that Third Street will ultimately be transformed into a greenway.

The public is welcome to comment on the plan until Thursday, November 16. Then it goes to the city council for formal adoption. You can access the plan (and other relevant documents) at www.springfield.il.us/Businesses/2037CompPlan.aspx.

This post was written by Steven Simpson Black, who runs his own small business while earning a planning degree from UIS.

Third Street Rail Closures Start Oct. 25

Starting Wednesday, five downtown Union Pacific Railroad crossings will be closed permanently: Union Street, Jackson Street, Canedy Street, Allen Street, and Cedar Street. These closures are the next step to acquire a “Quiet Zone” designation along the 3rd Street Corridor.

The five locations will have temporary barricades while Union Pacific completes work associated with the crossing closures and then the City of Springfield will have 60 days to install the permanent barricades.

Detours are marked to avoid the closed crossings. Alternative routes include the underpasses at Dodge Street and at Capitol Avenue along with the Stanford Avenue overpass.

Motorists who disregard the “Road Closed” and “Do Not Enter” signs are subject to a $250 fine.

What is a Quiet Zone?

County Report Gives Thumbs Up to DSI Work

Sangamon County hired The Development Consortium to analyze our area’s regional economic development efforts and the report was released last night. The consultants give DSI’s new direction a big thumbs up on Page 13.

Some downtown-centric highlights:

  • DSI has been primarily operating in a vacuum, mostly not of its own creation. As a needed placemaking organization, it needs to be part of the overall regional economic development strategy and included as a partner.
  • More than 300 current State of Illinois employees are enrolled in UIS programs, and other plans are under consideration of development in order to more fully integrate the campus into the fabric of the community. To the extent that UIS can expand its presence into the downtown areas of Springfield, prime opportunities for dynamic partnerships with business and government can more easily happen, with the additional economic impacts of having students learning, working and living in the City’s core. It would be a real game changer for the landscape and vitality of downtown Springfield.
  • Placemaking and quality of life improvements needed to attract and retain younger workers and recent graduates, and, really, people in all stages of life, need to be planned for, funded and executed, especially in the downtown, as a long-term strategy with representatives from all facets of life represented in the discussion along the way. Support organizations such as Downtown Springfield, Inc. that are working on this. Quality of place is important to new and long-term residents and visitors alike.

Read the whole report on the SJ-R website>

How About a Tourist Pop Up on the Plaza?

This week’s SJR story about the City’s interest in potentially moving Visit Springfield, our Convention & Visitors Bureau to a location around the Old State Capitol Plaza, got us thinking about what we’d experienced in other cities this summer. During Springfield’s tough budget times, if a better lease can’t be found, a compromise solution might be to host a visitors’ stand on the Old State Capitol next summer.

Here are what some other cities have done for highly trafficked areas:

Downtown Fashion Runway Show Highlights Our Comeback

Downtown Springfield Inc. and President Abraham Lincoln Springfield – a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel proudly invite local fashionistas of all ages and styles to a one-stop trunk show and runway experience featuring trendy fashions from downtown shops, timed perfectly for fall shopping sprees. Trendy, classic, casual, eclectic — you can find it all. Women’s, men’s, kid’s — in the last few years, our stores have dialed up their fashion options for you and the price points are divine.

Thursday, August 24, 2017
5-6 pm Red Carpet (for you!), Trunk Show, Cocktails
6-8 pm Runway Show & Silent Auction

Tickets are now available at the door for $35.

“We’re expecting to surprise a few people who haven’t shopped downtown for a while,” said Lisa Clemmons Stott, DSI Executive Director. “The downtown merchants are really excited to show their new lines of clothing and they’ve had a great time working together to make the night a memorable one.”

In 2012, the CLUE Group did a market study of downtown Springfield for us and reported that we had a serious lack of women’s fashion choices. Our entrepreneurs responded to the demand, and today you can see many trendy ensembles in the store windows downtown. Plus you get the curation and customer service that only a downtown shop can provide. That’s why we’re hosting a fun night of downtown fashion to highlight what you may not even realize is available in the district. Say you’ll be there on Facebook>

Tickets are $30 online and $35 at the door with proceeds benefiting DSI in their work to revitalize downtown and Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, a downtown non-profit working to heal the trauma of sexual assault. This is the first year that PCASA has teamed up with DSI on the Dare to be Different Fashion Show. The ticket price includes admissions and appetizers. A frozen cocktail bar (with options for non-alcoholic versions) and other items will be available for purchase. Our guide for the night is Troy Armstrong, chosen by SJR Readers in both 2016 and 2017 as Best DJ.

In addition to the Trunk Show & Silent Auction, more than 70 looks will be curated for the runway by these 13 downtown area businesses featuring Springfield models of all ages, shapes and sizes:

Fashion Looks Provided By:
Daisy Jane's
Iris & Ivy
Itty Bitty Fashion Truck
Jim Herron Ltd.
Murphy's Loft
Recycled Records
The Roost
Springfield Vintage
Studio on Sixth
Sumac Shop at Dana Thomas House
What the Shirt
Wild Rose
Urban Sassafras
 We also cannot thank the event committee enough: Jane Mosey-Nicoletta, Jean Bruner-Jachino, Shelley Vaughan, Linda Renehan, Robert Sabin, Troy Armstrong, Alicia Bibb, Krissy Olsen and Tricia Schlosser.

 

Why It’s Worth It to Study Going Back to Two-Way Streets Downtown

Executive Director Lisa Clemmons Stott gave these remarks to the Springfield City Council this week.

This picture posted on Springfield Rewind shows that downtown had two-way traffic at 5th and Adams in 1949.

The use of Central Area TIF funds to study whether one-way to two-way street conversion makes cents – as in cash registers ringing – is a prioritized use of TIF that aligns with DSI’s goals to increase foot traffic in the downtown district.

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) urban planners told us to reconsider our one-way grid back in 2012 when they encouraged us to stay focused on building a residential downtown. This is an interesting factoid they shared: “Customers who arrive by bicycle or foot spend less per retail visit, but make more frequent visits overall, which means that they spend more on an annual basis.” The kicker: “As many cities have discovered, the retail districts with the slowest speeds and highest congestion are often the most successful.”

We are not the first city to study one-way conversion and this is not a fly-by-night strategy. Cities around the country have reverted to their original two-way streets to increase economic impact in their downtowns.

Louisville KY’s conversion happened long enough ago (2011) that planning scholars have been able to assess the economic impact with hard data:

  • Fewer collisions, less crime and higher property values
  • Traffic safety in the area improved even though the traffic volume increased
  • People were willing to exchange the slower speeds for more direct access to their destination
  • Crime rate actually decreased on two problem streets because more “eyeballs” on the street

In Lubbock, Texas, 86% of local business were in favor of more conversion after seeing the results of the first few completed streets because they credited it as one part of helping them experience growth after years of decline.

Other cities converting back to two-way streets:

This is potentially one part of a larger downtown transportation solution that is needed–including signage analysis and wayfinding installation – and a parking app–and that is why conversion’s effect on parking is also a very important aspect of this study.

The process of neighborhood improvement is a very complex one with lots of variables. The downtown business community recommends a Yes vote to fund the initial conversion study.

Outcome as reported by SJR’s Mary Hansen: Council gives initial OK to funding for two-way traffic study

Art Pop-Up Comes to Downtown Alley

Get ready to experience local art in the most unexpected venue. Downtown Springfield, Inc. (DSI) invites you to a one-night takeover and transformation of a boring downtown alley into a big city art club. The Art Alley Pop-Up takes place on Thursday, June 29 from 5-9 pm. Enjoy art, syncopated music and light show, an interactive mural, plus appetizers by Augie’s Front Burner and Floyd’s Thirst Parlor beverages!

Tickets are $15 at the door, which include admission and appetizers with proceeds benefiting downtown revitalization. All ages are encouraged and welcomed to attend. Our first ever alley party in the alley between the Reisch Building & the Old Town Mall between 4th & 5th Streets, just west of the Old State Capitol.

This event is made possible with partnership from Springfield Art Association and generous support from Neuhoff Media, Solomon Colors, AARP Illinois, Crawford Murphy and Tilly, Don Smith Paints and PPG Paints.

A music and light show will be produced in coordination by Neuhoff and Chicago light artist Brandon Mojica of ProSource. Art Alley will include a paint by colors mural for event goers to leave there own mark downtown. The south wall will feature 30+ local hanging art pieces with the north wall comprising of two larger scale murals by local artists Laura Zuniga and Immanuel Ahiable.

You can score free admission by serving as a volunteer for this event. Click to View Volunteer Opportunities on SignUp.com

 

Laura Zuniga is ART BY ZUNIGA.  She is an emerging artist currently residing in Springfield, IL.  Zuniga attended Benedictine University in Springfield. She completed her Bachelor’s in Studio Arts at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.  Zuniga is a museum full of potential art projects that hopes will open people’s eyes.  She looks to bring many more creations that will tell stories and be appreciated by individuals who admire art just as much as she does.  Her mural Lion Chaser was inspired by Chase the Lion, a book about pursuing your dreams, given to her by a close friend who believes in her dreams as an artist.  The book is about going after your dreams.

”It inspired me and gave me the courage to pursue what God has placed in my heart,” Zuniga says. “Since I came to Springfield in the summer of ’08, it has always been a dream of mine to paint a mural downtown. The mural depicts this opportunity that I was blessed with and I hope that it will encourage other generations to do the same, to chase their lion.”

Immanuel Ahiable, a new exhibiting member at the SAA Collective gallery in Springfield, has incorporated visual art into his life. His mural, In Loving Memory, is inspired by the recent passing of his grandfather and his families roots in Ghana, West Africa. His passing brought new perspective to Ahiable’s life. The mural prominently featured the words of If a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

“Ever since the age of 4, and even before as a young boy who had just moved to the US, I always had a strong desire to create,” says Ahiable. “Visual arts always had a certain consistency in my life. It made sense to me that that this was my way of communication. I will use it to make the most beneficial impact on the world that I live in.”

Zuniga and Ahiables work has already in progress on the alley walls…So if you love art, murals, experiences, downtown or just want a big city feel for one night, drop in after work and kick-off the Fourth of July weekend in a new unique hip way!

Get event details here>

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th – and his relationship to Downtown

Downtown Springfield is super lucky to be chock-full of history and significant historical buildings — including the Dana Thomas House at 4th and Cook.  It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whom some consider America’s finest architect of all time. The Dana Thomas House Foundation and Springfield Historic Sites staff are giving you multiple opportunities to celebrate the great architect’s birthday this month (It is tomorrow, June 8!). Plus DSI is dedicating the most recent mural in our ARTification Public Art Project – which pays homage to Wright and his Dana Thomas designs in a big way, this month.

The Dana Thomas House is located at 301 E Lawrence Ave. Tours are available 9 AM – 4 PM, Wed-Sun, 10 AM – 2 PM Mondays and Tuesdays. All of these events listed above the ** line take place at the House.

Thursday, June 8 – THE BIG DAY
Enjoy refreshments in the Sumac Shop; Take a birthday photo with Frank Lloyd Wright; Now available, all new Wright in Springfield 2018 Calendar.

Friday, June 9, 10:15 AM and 1:15 PM Tour: Wright Concepts
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 10, 1:15 PM NEW Tour: The Restoration of the Dana-Thomas House
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 10, 6 PM Concert: Frank Lloyd Wright in Words and Music — Join acclaimed musicians David Cain and Larry Gray for an exploration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy through music and words.
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 24, 1:15 PM NEW Tour: The Restoration of the Dana-Thomas House
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Sunday June 25, 11:15 AM and 1:15 PM NEW Tour: Animals and Architects — Designed for families. Animals and Architects is a 30 minute tour that will begin with an activity in the courtyard and explore representations of animals inside the house.
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

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Thursday, June 22 from 4-5 pm
Join DSI for the Public Dedication of the Frank Lloyd Wright window mural on the back of the building at 5th and Monroe. Say you’ll be there on Facebook>

“Prairie Sumac,” painted by Springfield artist Troy Freeman, is from a Frank Lloyd Wright window design that can be seen locally at the Dana-Thomas House. Thanks to the City of Springfield, sponsorship from AIA Illinois, building owner Curtis Tillett, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for making this mural a reality.

The Man Behind the Mail

Everybody knows OJ, the mail carrier for the Old State Capitol Route! But how MUCH do you know about OJ?

Harry Crowder AKA “OJ” delivers mail and packages to many of us in the downtown area. But mail is not all he brings with him — we are also the daily recipients of his generous and warm spirit! No matter what kind of day one has, OJ’s standard good mood is sure to brighten it. With his big smile, warm heart, and listening ear he is always a joy to see.

OJ was born and raised in Chatham, and graduated from Chatham High School in 1990. He got his nickname from his Mom, who didn’t want to have him come running every time she yelled for his Dad, who he shares his first name with.

From Chatham, he went on to join the Air Force, where he worked as a Fuel Systems Specialist. When his Air Force base closed in 1992, he decided to join the postal service. That means that OJ has worked for USPS for 24 years. During that time, he has been gifted with three children; Jordan 23, Kaitlyn 20, and Braiden 14.

OJ also is the proud bearer of a bowling record that still stands six years later: 34 out of 36 strikes during a game at Laketown Lanes for a score of 886.

What does OJ like most about downtown Springfield? It’s definitely the festivals. One event, especially, holds a special place in his heart: Old Capitol Blues and BBQ (which DSI ran for many years). OJ was there at the very first Blues & BBQ Festival in 2004 to cook up some delicious barbeque. You can still find him at several downtown festivals, volunteering to serve you a cold one at the beer truck.

OJ also loves downtown during the Christmas holidays and is a fan of too many local eateries and bars to mention. “I’d like to see more growth in local tourism, and hope that word will continue to spread about all that downtown Springfield has to offer,” he says with a grin.

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