Momentum on Main Street: Red Tape in the Permitting Process
Renovating any property can be confusing especially when trying to make sure that the building you’re renovating is up to code and that you have all of the permits you need. Recently, Momentum on Main Street hosted a training to help property owners navigate the permitting process. Here are some things you should consider when looking to renovate a downtown property.
How to Take Advantage of TIF
Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a tool to use future gains in taxes to finance redevelopment and community improvement projects. The City of Springfield has designated nine areas of the city as Tax Increment Financing Districts. TIF funds support many improvements, including roadway access, demolition of old buildings, streetscape, site preparation, infrastructure, and building rehabilitation. To see a map with all of the TIF Districts, click here.
Abby Powell was the former Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Springfield and will be succeeded by Ravi Doshi. Her primary focus was overseeing grants TIF (tax increment financing) and grants that support businesses downtown.
If you are interested in TIF or grants available, it is advisable to call the office at 217-789-2377 to find out if funds are available. Only those who meet the following criteria should apply.
It is highly recommended to give the department a call and talk through your project before applying. Some requirements when applying for TIF funds include:
- You must be the owner of the building or in the process of purchasing it. If you are under contract to buy a property, the contract must be presented as proof of intent to buy. We cannot work with renters; you must have site control.
- You must pay a prevailing wage to those you hire.
- You must place an ad out for contractors, and all workers must have Springfield addresses.
- If you are opening a new business, a business plan must be presented.
- If you have an existing business, you must present an operating budget and construction numbers.
Once all documentation is gathered and your application is complete, it goes in front of the city council. The Economic Development Commission advisory board will decide if your project is approved for the funds. You are looking at an average timeline of 4 weeks.
It is important to note that TIF funds can only be allocated to finished projects as a whole and not to specific project elements. If you are not eligible for TIF funds, the Office of Economic Developement may be able to point you towards other grants that may be more suitable. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and give our office a call at 217-789-2377.
Making Zoning Changes and Obtaining Permits
Josh Roughley is the Planning Coordinator and over Springfield’s Building and Zoning Department. He advises that if you need zoning relief or if a building was zoned incorrectly, this is the department that handles all zoning issues.
Josh worked for two Architectural Engineering firms prior to the City. Projects with these firms run from Intern to Project Architect and span the gamut of archetypes; with heavy emphasis on Healthcare (Hospital/Clinical), Historical Adaptive Reuse (Mixed Use Residential), and Education (K-12/Higher).
Obtaining the proper permits is critical when making changes to any downtown structure. The Building and Zoning Departments is responsible for issuing all types of licenses, including:
The quality of documents presented will dictate how quickly you receive permits. It is vital to understand that permits require the involvement of several different people, and this takes time. The general time frame is 3-6 weeks, maybe more for complex projects. It is advisable to hire a licensed architect who is familiar with downtown projects. A professional can easily convey a solution in a great way that minimizes challenges, reducing the chances of complications.
Failure to gather the correct documentation or fill out applications completely can cause significant delays and increase expenses.
For more information, contact the office at 217-789-2171.
T.J. Heavisides is Springfield’s City Traffic Engineer and oversees obstruction permits. If you wish to close a lane of traffic, hold a public event, have tables and chairs on the sidewalks, or build a parklet, you will need to obtain permission. Typically permits take about a week if all the information provided is detailed. However, there may be delays if all the necessary documentation is not provided. Heavisides advises that using the North Mansion Block is encouraged because it can be challenging to shut down streets in front of stores.
If you are looking for an obstruction permit, contact the office at 217-789-2000.
Ensuring Your Building is Compliant With Fire Safety Codes
Ed Canny is Division Chief of Fire Safety and Fire Marshall.
“I am a lifelong resident of the Springfield area. I have worked for the Springfield Fire Department for the past 24 years. I have worked my way through the ranks of the Fire department from firefighter to captain working at various houses with the majority of my tenure at Station #1 in Downtown Springfield. In this capacity I became familiar with many of the buildings in the downtown area. In 2014 I transitioned to the Fire Safety Division as a fire inspector and investigator. I was able to again see many of these buildings through inspection and construction activities. In 2019, I was promoted to the position of Division Chief of Fire Safety also known as the City Fire Marshal. The Division is charged with public education, code enforcement and building and life safety reviews. I believe Springfield has a rich history that is rooted in the downtown area. I look forward to working with developers and business owners to help make downtown Springfield a success. “
The Springfield Fire Department oversees the fire safety portion of projects and works closely with Building and Zoning to ensure that buildings are up to code. Reviewing both new and existing construction are inspected for fire safety. Before occupants can legally enter the building, it must pass fire inspection. If insufficiencies are found, they must be addressed, and the building must be reinspected and pass prior to occupancy.
Understanding downtown regulations and needed permits before you begin building or making changes will save you a great deal of time and hassle in the long run. Springfield’s knowledgeable professionals are here to help you make the most of your downtown build!
- Communicate early and often with your local experts.
- It is important to provide quality documents
- Contract with a local design professional specifically one familiar with working with downtown properties.