Last night, DSI went to the City of Springfield budget hearings for the three departments our organization works with the most: Economic Development, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Public Works. The departments were offering their proposals for the FY2021 city budget which starts March 1, 2020. Here are some highlights from the presentations and discussion with Aldermen of interest to those of us who care about downtown.
DOWNTOWN TIF FUNDS
In three years, the TIF will have positive cash flow. There is no cash available for payouts for obligated projects this fiscal year. Annually, the TIF pays $1.4M to the County to disperse to the taxing districts, including District 186. This fiscal year, $1.25M will go to the YMCA project at 4th and Carpenter, $450,000 is targeted for DK Collections’ hotel project at 4th and Washington, and another $165,000 needs to be paid for the sewer project on the north side of the Y Block. Discussion included whether the City would bond against future TIF projects.
VISITORS BUREAU AT 6TH AND ADAMS
There has been a 550% increase in visitors to the Visitors Bureau since it opened its visitors center on the Plaza vs when it welcomed visitors at its headquarters on 7th Street. There were 17,000 people who stopped in in 2019. We advocated for a Plaza visitors pop up back in 2017 and we’re thrilled with the results.
CVB GOES MOBILE
The Convention and Visitors Bureau’s budget includes a $54,000 “wrapped” van to utilize for interstate travel when hunting for new conventions and for local events and site visits.
LOCAL SPRINGFIELD PROUD
CVB will be working with other local organizations on a local pride marketing campaign.
OTHER CVB UPDATES
Convention bookings turned definite 20% higher in 2019. Route 66 Living Legends program will be rolled out Spring 2020. A new billboard on N Peoria Rd (near ISF Gate 4) directs southbound visitors downtown to the Visitors Center. The graphics are at right. Northbound, a Route 66 tease and another for travelers heading out of town to return to Springfield.
City has sent out the same RFP they used 18 months ago again. Public Works plans to hold a public input meeting in a few months.
The current RFP calls for upgrading 200 of the 1400 meters downtown to be able to accept a credit card. Much discussion with Aldermen about whether this is the right strategy.
Staff admits that some meters are not used much in the outskirts and may consider taking them out.
TREE ASSET INVENTORY
Public Works has $100,000 in its proposed budget for an inventory of Springfield’s trees and a plan to replace them. Aldermen displayed skepticism for the price tag for this consultant. This is an initiative of the Mayor’s Urban Forestry Commission.
Public Works said Gotcha will be launching their bike share program in downtown this spring.
TWO WAY STREETS
Along with the modernization of traffic signals which have outlived their useful life and need to be replaced, the City intends to convert several downtown streets back to two-way (as they were previously in the 1950’s and before) for easier navigation and safety.
Regarding the costs — $4.3M is the cost for overall signal modernization and two-way street conversion of 4th, 7th and Adams as the first phase. If the City reversed course and decided not to do the conversion back to two way (which DSI would oppose), the cost of the modernization would be $3.4M.
The Mayor’s beautification proposal includes downtown and the major corridors of the city. It was unclear how the routes would be prioritized. Public Works said they would be putting together a five year plan for this and their other projects.
Public Works mentioned installing a street arch at First Street. We’re not sure what this is, but we’re asking! Sounds like the replacement of something historic to go along with the Mayor’s beautification proposal.
SUPPORT FOR DSI
The Economic Development budget included $50,000 for DSI’s economic development work.
Downtown is represented by two aldermen – Andrew Proctor (Ward 5) and Shawn Gregory (Ward 2).