Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Complete Transcript: Economic Development Director Mary Lilly Smith Comments on Park Central Square

From the June 3, 2008, City Council luncheon regarding Council Bill 2008-172.

Council Bill 2008-172

"A RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING City staff to proceed with Phase 2 of the design proposal of Butler Rosenbury & Partners, Inc. for the downtown square area."


"As you know, we had contract plans done for the redevelopment of the square and it included three different phases. The first phase, what we were calling the first phase, was the interior of the square. The second phase was the perimeter (and) sidewalk, the third phase was a media tower, a canopy and the interior of the square.

"We went through the section 106 process on the interior of the square to get permission to use the federal funds. The State Historic Preservation Office came back with a determination of eligibility, saying, the square was "potentially" eligible for the National Register (editor note: see Park Central Square Eligible for National Register of Historic Places, according to a May 23, news release from the City of Springfield the square is eligible, not "potentially" eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places) and found that our design had an adverse effect on the historic resource, potentially historic resource.

"So, our option at that point, if we were to continue with a project on the interior of the square, would be to enter into a mitigation process with the federal agencies and the consulting parties and to determine how we could continue to, how we could modify, or if we could modify, the design to respect the historic resource or if we wanted to just ignore the historic resource.

"That (mitigation), obviously, will take some time and being mindful of our contractural obligation on the Heer's building and the fact that we've generated a lot of interest in having something done to the square through our public involvement process, staff's recommendation is that we re-direct the federal funds to what was initially going to be Phase II, to the perimeter sidewalks, the sidewalks right up against the buildings on the square. This would include pedestrian lighting, it would include some, potentially, some movement on the exterior curve of the street to get a little bit more space next to the buildings to allow for more outdoor activity.

"We will, what we talked with the federal agencies about, is that we would re-engage the public discussion on the interior square later in the fall and go back to the stake-holders and say, "Okay, now that SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) has decided, has determined that this is "potentially" eligible for the National Register, (editor's note: again, see City of Springfield News Release) how does that impact the design, you know, and is that something that we need to re-address in the design or how do you want to move forward?"

"We (staff) think it's important, at this point, to move forward with the project on the square. It's federal money obligated, meet our contractural obligation on the Heer's and do the perimeter...."

Question on costs. Had Butler Rosenbury & Partners been paid for Phase II, from Councilman Denny Whayne


"No, what, they (Butler Rosenbury & Partners) had done a concept plan that included all three phases but they have not done construction documents on Phase II. We will need to engage them to do the construction documents for Phase II. We will owe them some more money, yes, because that was not part of our original contract with them. All of these funds though, in talking with federal highway administration, the money that we spent on Phase I, which, you know, we may still be able to implement, we're just not going to pursue it at this point in time, but that design money and this new design money will all count as part of our match to the federal money, you know, the federal money was an 80/20 match, 80 percent federal, 20 percent local...."

Question from Deaver regarding compatibility issues. "The thing that has to be compatible is the buildings, themselves, that are around our, the entire area. Have a little bit of discussion about your view of the impact....." - Mayor Pro Tem Deaver


"Sure, we actually, when we convened all the agencies in May to talk about the square, we had the State Historic Preservation Office, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), which is where the money comes from, MoDOT, which is where FHWA funnels the money and then, ultimately, it comes to us. We actually spent some time talking about the perimeter of the square and talking about, how do you, what do you try to make your improvements respect? Do they respect the 1970s Halprin interior or do they respect the buildings that, primarily, were built 1900s to 1920, which, if you talk to the historians, what you'll find out is that almost all the buildings around the square were built in that 20 year period and that was a really significant era of development for our community, and in talking with the State Historic Preservation Office, their strong feeling was that we need to be the most respectful of the structures.

"The sidewalk, the pedestrian lining, is going to be up against those structures (the buildings) and that's really the window that they'll be looking at that from, rather than the interior of the square.

"Now, we showed them what we've done elsewhere downtown, with the window pane sidewalks and the pedestrian lights and said, you know, "we'd like to just carry forward with the same design that we've done elsewhere." They felt very comfortable with that.

"Now, we still have to submit, we still have to go back through the 106 process again with this federal money, but we've had all those initial conversations. They've seen, on the ground, what we've got and they said, "We feel like we can give you a finding very quickly of no adverse impact."

Question from Councilman Burlison, unintelligible


"Well, actually, what the state has said, and we won't know for sure until they come back, you know, with their actual determination, but they said that they felt like they would probably give us a finding of no adverse impact on our streetscape, conditioned upon a couple of things and those were probably going to be, and this was, you know, just in the conversation stage, those would probably be that we would have to document the last piece of that canopy, you know, we've taken off three of the four quadrants of the canopy, it turns out the canopy was designed by Lawrence Halprin, but this is kind of, you know, from a policy perspective, this is where you get into the real interesting thing, that (canopy) was designed by Halprin, it was part of that whole design of the square which they've said is historic, but because that canopy is attached to these, or sits in front of these 1910, 1920s era buildiings, it actually makes those buildings not eligible for the National Register. So, it's kind of a paradox there, but, they've said we have to document the canopy before we take it down, which, we have to take it down in order to improve the sidewalks, and then, that would make those properties eligible for the National Register. Most of the remainder of the square is on the National Register already.

"The National Register places no restriction at all on property but it makes it eligible for significant tax credits, and so the state has said they may come back and say, "We'll grant you a finding of no adverse impact provided you write a nomination to place the rest of it on the National Register." We don't have that from them yet, but we think, that's kind of the direction we think they're going...."

Question on time line from Councilwoman Mary Collette


"We will submit our section 106 review documents, possibly as early as the end of this week, to SHPO. We've been out taking pictures and gathering information, you know, kind of anticipating we would have this action (approval of Bill 2008-172). So, we will submit that, potentially, the end of this week.

"We will also engage Butler Rosenbury to prepare the construction documents for it (Phase II, perimeter of square) so that we could be in a position to bid and we would be, I don't have a date for bidding yet, but we feel like we have just enough time to get everything underway so that we could start construction by August 1st.

"If we need to, we can break the canopy out as a separate contract. We already know what we need to do in order to take that down and that would absolutely be the start of construction on repair of the sidewalks, and we've been working with Kevin McGowan, he thinks that this is a really good solution. He obviously wants the sidewalks in front of his building repaired."

---end transcript---

Council Bill 2008-172 passed unanimously. Councilman Chiles and Councilman Manley were not present for the vote.

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