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.

Thanks to Kristi Mitchell Photography for serving as the night’s official photographer: https://photographybykristi.shootproof.com/gallery/11509326/

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!

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 – Thirsty’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.

 

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.”

 

Momentum on Main Street: What to Know Before You Buy

Have you thought about purchasing a downtown building or investing in a downtown property?

In the third of six how-to sessions comprising this year’s Momentum on Main Street series produced by DSI’s Economic Vitality Committee, Jeff Sommers, Founding Principal Architect of Square Root Architecture, will walk you through a vacant building and show you what you should look for.

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.

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