The City of Springfield was notified today that the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office has determined that the inner section of Park Central Square is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and that the proposed undertaking would have an adverse effect on the Square.
The determination was made in response to the City’s Section 106 application to the Federal Highway Administration and to the SHPO for review that is required when federal funds are used for a project such as the proposed renovation of the Square. The eligibility determination does not designate the Square as an historic site, but means it is eligible for such a designation. Federal law requires that federal agencies take into account the impact of their undertakings on properties listed or eligible for listing in the National Register. The SHPO stated that the Square is eligible in the area of Landscape Architecture and is significant for its association with noted landscape designer Lawrence Halprin.
FHWA concurrence with the Determination of Eligibility means that the City would have to work with SHPO, FHWA and other interested parties on mutually agreeable ways to mitigate any potential adverse impact the renovation would have on elements of the Square determined to be eligible for historic designation. There are a variety of ways in which mitigation could take place, such as documenting the current design or preserving historic elements of the current design. FHWA has the final decision on any mitigation measures.
The City believes the mitigation process can’t be completed in time to meet contractual deadlines related to Blue Urban’s renovation of the Heer’s Tower. Therefore, the City will quickly begin discussions with stakeholders about moving forward on Phase II of the renovation project instead of Phase I.
The Phase II renovations noted in the new design plan involve sidewalk improvements, new lighting and potentially narrowing the existing roadway around the perimeter of the Square. This phase of renovations could enlarge the outer perimeter to allow more room for activities like outdoor dining, an outdoor reading area for the Park Central Library Branch and other potential uses by property owners such as Blue Urban and Missouri State University.
The City has consulted with the SHPO and the office has indicated that it will likely be able to complete review of the outer-perimeter renovations to permit construction to start on the project in a timely manner. The federal funding for the project applied to the Square as a whole, so moving ahead on the outer perimeter is consistent with the grant funding.
“The inner Square is a higher-profile part of the project and it elicited the most feedback about changes people would like to see to make the Square more inviting and user friendly,” said Rusty Worley, executive director of Urban Districts Alliance, which coordinated the public-input process for the Square renovation. “However, the outer Square renovation is clearly a high priority and offers immediate benefits to the Library, Heer's, Missouri State University, and the sidewalk cafes.”
If there is consensus among stakeholders and the City Council to move forward on the outer perimeter, City staff and the design team will aggressively move forward on final design and construction documents to try to meet the Aug. 1 contract obligation for the Square renovation to begin. The City also has been consulting about the process with Blue Urban developer Kevin McGowan, who has expressed his support for this alternate plan.
After steps are in place to meet the contractual obligation, the City will revisit the issues associated with the inner Square and re-open the public-input process.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Park Central Square Eligible for National Register of Historic Places
City of Springfield News Release: