Answering Your Pressing Questions: Downtown University Presence

Q: Does DSI want one or more universities to locate programs in the downtown neighborhood?

A: We sure do, and we’ve been on the record since at least 2013.  According to a 2017 study by the Brookings Institution, downtown higher ed programs outperform their peers, and have emerged as “key competitive differentiators” for cities. The study entitled, “Hidden in plain sight: The oversized impact of downtown universities,” highlights the important interplay between universities, startups, and local jobs. (Source: Why downtown universities help fuel the urban startup ecosystem)

The creation of downtown business incubator and social innovation hub Innovate Springfield by the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln in 2015, which is now a part of UIS as of 2018, was the biggest step so far in a long dialogue. Innovate Springfield is now part of the Illinois Innovation Network, a State initiative led by the University of Illinois System to foster the breakthrough research, discovery, and entrepreneurship that drives progress, job creation and economic growth.

Q: Why has the conversation heated up now?

A: Governor Pritzker has been touring new downtown IIN hub locations in Chicago, Peoria and other cities and Springfield needs to finalize its location as well. UIS Chancellor Koch has been seeking a downtown location for more than a year.

Plus, the Governor and legislative caucuses passed a capital bill last year, which only comes around once a decade and includes potential funding for higher ed projects. Combining these two state funding streams could create an opportunity for University of Illinois and Southern Illinois University — the two largest higher ed systems in the state — to work more closely together in the areas of innovation and incubation.

This concept fits in brilliantly with what DSI has been preaching for a while — supporting and increasing the number of “Creatives in the Core” is the way to accelerate our local economy by supporting the businesses who are here and creating more jobs.

Q: I’ve read news reports by Bruce Rushton and Brenden Moore about a plan to locate potential buildings at the epicenter of 4th and Adams.  What’s up?

A: The staff of the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance met with property owners from 2nd to 4th Street, and Monroe to Washington, to share their organization’s ideas about a preferred location for potential university programs.

The universities have not formally selected any location yet.

DSI has not yet provided a formal proposal to the universities, Governor Pritzker or Senator Andy Manar (chair of the Senate’s Appropriations II Committee), because we await information about needed square footage. However, we are now working with SSGA, AIA Illinois, Landmarks Illinois, and Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation to develop resources for the decision-makers when we, as a community, enter the final phase of determining the best location.

Those resources include analysis of other downtown neighborhoods across the nation that have a well-integrated higher ed presence, such as: Scott Community College in Davenport, IA; The University of Memphis in Tennessee; and the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin.

No matter how quickly our proposals must gel together in the next few months, a process that includes transparent, collaborative community participation is vital.

Q: Where would a downtown university presence be located?

That has yet to be determined. The universities have not yet weighed in with space needs for programs or a preferred location(s).

It’s understandable why SSGA identified Fourth and Adams as an epicenter for any potential higher ed projects: it is near the State Capitol; who wouldn’t want to take advantage of the potential greenway left when Third Street rail ways are consolidated to 10th Street; and it is also an area that has already attracted private and city investment, and many new businesses, in the last decade, which would provide the “interplay” highlighted in the Brookings Institution report.

Q: What is guiding DSI’s participation in these conversations?

Downtown Springfield Inc is a nationally-accredited Main Street organization, a coalition of downtown businesses, and a champion for downtown investment for nearly 28 years. We have more than 150 business and non-profit members.

Our daily work is to celebrate and support the investment that entrepreneurs and residential developers have already made in the downtown neighborhood and to work to attract even more investment.

On December 12th, the DSI Board of Directors took this official position:

  • A vibrant university presence is invaluable to the long-term vitality of downtown Springfield.
  • In keeping with the strong sense of community that exists downtown, we believe transparent, collaborative stakeholder participation is instrumental in developing and nurturing a downtown university presence.
  • We look forward to working with all community partners to integrate the universities into downtown Springfield.

Downtown university programs could potentially turn surface parking lots into beautiful new buildings and vacant buildings into living laboratories. These gaps have previously been identified as black eyes in the SDAT Report, in the RUDAT report, and in the City’s 2017 Comprehensive Plan. It’s at least a good place to start the conversation about location.

As a neighborhood community, we are beyond excited to become the setting for Springfield’s “interplay” between small businesses, technology and higher ed research in the coming years. We look forward to working with the universities, as a community, to give Governor Pritzker a proposal he can get excited about, too.

DSI’s Old Capitol Holiday Walk

Downtown Springfield is the perfect backdrop for your holiday season! Just like our favorite Hallmark movies, spending time in the downtown district allows you to create your own story line of holiday magic…

Here are today’s special activities:

-Shopping for gifts!! And maybe a little something for yourself….
-Dining at some of Springfield’s best restaurants
-Be ready to make your own #HallmarkMoment
-Free! Santa in the Old State Capitol (1-5 pm)
-Watch for the SYPG Elves (2-5 pm)
-Visit with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln (1-5 pm)
-Free! Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides by Red Gate Farm (pick up at 5th and Adams from noon – 3 pm)
-Free! Grab a ride in the Santa Van (1-4 pm)
-Outdoor Market on the Plaza (1-4 pm)
Holiday Tea Seatings at Edwards Place at 11 am and 3 pm
-1850s carol sing at First Presbyterian Church at 6 pm
Explore the Elijah Iles Home with Kids Activities 1-4 pm & Candlelight Tours 5-8 pm
-Enjoy Holiday Design Tours of the Dana Thomas House with the Springfield Civic Garden Club at 5:15 pm and 6:30 pm
Springfield Choral Society presents George Frideric Handel’s Messiah at 7:30 pm tickets are $15.
-Grab a tasty beverage and enjoy the downtown scene

Knights of Columbus Convention

We welcome the 250 attendees to the 2019 Illinois State Council Knights of Columbus Winter District Deputy Meeting to our beautiful downtown!

DSI’s Old Capitol Holiday Walk

Downtown Springfield is the perfect backdrop for your holiday season! Just like our favorite Hallmark movies, spending time in the downtown district allows you to create your own story line of holiday magic…

Here are tonight’s special activities:

-Shopping for gifts!! And maybe a little something for yourself….
-Dining at some of Springfield’s best restaurants
-Be ready to make your own #HallmarkMoment
-Free! Santa in the Old State Capitol
-Watch for the SYPG Elves
-Free! Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides by Red Gate Farm (pick up at 5th and Adams)
Parents Night Out at the Kidzeum (with a donation)
-Take a selfie at the SMTD Lighted Bus at 4th and Adams
-Special performance by Lincoln Magnet School at 6:30 pm in Old State Capitol
-Architectural tours of the Dana Thomas House led by Anthony Rubano at 5:00 pm & 6:30 pm
-Grab a tasty beverage and enjoy the downtown scene


Small Business Saturday | Holiday Walks Kick-Off

Join Downtown Springfield Inc. for the first day of the 2019 Old Capitol Holiday Walks!

It’s also Small Business Saturday, the nationwide day to spend a portion of your gift-giving dollars on local and independently owned businesses, which you can find in spades in the downtown neighborhood, with friendly shop owners, free gift wrapping and more!


10 am – 5 pm
Small Business Saturday Shopping

Noon – 3 pm
Free! Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides by Red Gate Farm – pick up at 5th and Adams (Plaza side) Cancelled today due to weather

Noon to 5 pm
WNNS will be out on the Old State Capitol Plaza collecting toys for the Springfield Toys for Tots drive. Moved into the Visitors Center at 6th and Adams

1 – 5 pm
Free! Meet Santa and Mrs. Claus in the Old State Capitol

1-5 pm
New! Enjoy a holiday-themed Outdoor Market on the Old State Capitol Plaza. Cancelled today due to weather

1-5 pm
You might just see our 16th President and his wife doing their holiday shopping so feel free to stop and chat with them and grab a photo! Compliments of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

1 pm Moved into the Visitors Center at 6th and Adams
Drawing for the DSI Santa Hat presented by the State Journal Register raffle winner on the Old State Capitol Plaza (6th and Adams). Purchase a Santa Hat for $10 through the month of November to receive coupons to some of your favorite downtown shops and support DSI’s work to support local businesses. 

1-4 pm
Jump on the Santa Van to take you between downtown shopping and Springfield’s historic sites, sponsored by the Springfield Historic Sites and provided by the Ancient Athletics of the St. Andrew’s Society of Central Illinois. Donations are accepted. The Santa Van stop is next to the Visitor’s Center at 6th and Adams.

2-4 pm
Lincoln Public Library is hosting a Holiday Tea!

5:30 pm moved inside the Old State Capitol due to weather forecast
Join us for Santa’s Grand Entrance, Springfield Youth Performance Group’s holiday performance, and the Official Lighting Ceremony of the community tree by Ace Sign Company & Butler Funeral Home followed by New! the High School Choir Competition sponsored by Landmark Automotive Group and SYPG Foundation and presented by 98.7 WNNS. You’ll enjoy performances by the top three choirs with the winning school being presented with a $500 check.

The participating schools, in alphabetical order, are: Glenwood Chatham High School, Springfield High School, and Taylorville High School.

5-7 pm
Take a selfie in front of the SMTD Lighted Bus! It will be parked at the corner of 4th and Adams. Don’t forget to tag your photos with #holidaywalks and #hallmarkmoments!

7 pm
Dinner Reservations, your choice

Click the link below for more information about the entire five-week Old Capitol Holiday Walks and plan your own magical holiday experience today!

CANCELLED Veterans Day Parade

Unfortunately the organizers felt they must cancel this year’s parade due to the unfavorable weather conditions.

The parade starts at 10:20 am on Capitol near 11th Street and will reach the Capitol grounds by 11 am.

The City Public Works Department will close Capitol Avenue between 11th and 9th street by 8:30 am. The street will be reopened immediately after the parade.

All parade participants must register at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue by 9:30 a.m.

The parade will feature military veterans from wars including World War II, Korea and Vietnam, as as well as color guards, emergency vehicles and the marching bands from Lanphier, Southeast and Springfield high schools.

Unlike other parades in Springfield, no candy is thrown.


Cruise the Shops with DSI

The vintage cars lining our downtown streets during the 18th Annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival aren’t the only attraction! Fill your car (vintage or otherwise) with deals at participating shops.

Stop by the DSI tent at 6th and Adams to get your shop list to play:

  • Players will receive 1 raffle ticket for every shop visited
  • Players will receive 5 raffle tickets for purchase at participating shops

The more raffle tickets you earn, the better your chance to WIN! Winners will receive a basket of downtown goodies valued at $200.

We’re proud to be on the original Route 66 and we welcome you!

Neighborhood Clean-Up

DSI’s Design Committee would like to invite you to help us polish up the heart of our city, in time for the Mother Road Festival which starts this night!

This activity is also part of United Way of Central Illinois’ Day of Action.

Just meet us at the corner of 5th and Washington and we’ll go out in teams to pick up trash and identify any walking hazards. If you have a pair of gloves, you might want to bring those along – otherwise we’ll have the supplies necessary.

**Did you know that DSI “adopted” 5th Street as part of the City’s Adopt-A-Street program years ago? We organize volunteer clean-ups for it, and for the rest of downtown, at least three times a year.

16th Annual Green Symposium

It’s time for the Annual Green Symposium! Resource One will be hosting the event in the previous location of the Illinois Realtors Association.

The keynote speaker this year will be Kent Massie, PLA/PSLA of Massie Massie & Associates.

There will be a guided tour of the renovated Governor’s Mansion (LEED Silver) following the Symposium.

Following the tour, come enjoy the cocktail party on the Bicentennial Plaza

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