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City Beat: IDEA Commons expansion gets city support

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Springfield City Council on Sept. 24 unanimously approved a resolution for the city to fund public improvements for the IDEA Commons expansion project.

“We’re at the point where we have some definition to the project and want to discuss that with council,” Springfield Planning & Development Director Mary Lilly Smith told council prior to the vote.

With the green light from council, the city will provide an estimated $1.8 million for streetscaping along Phelps Street and Boonville Avenue and another $1 million for stormwater work at the public-private development downtown. The public improvements will be funded by the city’s quarter-cent capital improvements sales tax, Smith said.

The IDEA Commons expansion between The Vecino Group LLC, Missouri State University and the city of Springfield is projected to cost $55 million – more than half of which will be privately financed by the developer, The Vecino Group.

Of that price tag, Smith said Vecino Group’s new office building is estimated to cost $25.3 million, an expansion to Jordan Valley Innovation Center is set at $15 million, and a new parking garage is budgeted at $11.8 million.

In all, The Vecino Group is slated to cover $32.7 million through private financing. The development firm is picking up nearly $7.5 million of the JVIC project cost, leaving $4.5 million funded through the federal new market tax credit program and MSU contributing the remaining $3 million, Smith said.

The Vecino Group plans to expand JVIC by 30,000 square feet and serve as landlord to MSU for seven years, according to the terms of the new market tax credits issued by the U.S. Treasury Department. Smith said the university will then have the opportunity to purchase the building.

The MSU parking garage will be funded by Missouri Development Finance Board tax credits in the amount of $3 million to incentivize another $3 million through MSU fundraising and an MDFB loan for $5.8 million, Smith said.

“These projects will be a catalyst for change and growth not just north of the square and south of Chestnut but throughout the square and into downtown,” MSU President Clif Smart said to council.

Smith said local incentives associated with the expansion include a tax increment financing district and Chapter 100 industrial development bonds. The bonds have not been issued. Smith said the city will separately prepare an industrial development plan for council to review and adopt before the bonds are issued.

“A state TIF district can either capture half of the incremental increase in state sales taxes or half of the incremental increase in state withholding taxes of jobs in the district,” Smith told council.

The use of the bonds would make the office building tax exempt.

“A transportation development district will be put in place to capture those forgone real property taxes,” Smith said.

Smith said the project could break ground next year in late summer or early fall.

The IDEA Commons expansion is progressing along after initial development ideas were discussed more than a year ago, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

Land use changes
The discussion continued on the rezoning request of 8 acres at 2700 E. Battlefield Road with Councilman Matthew Simpson offering an amendment to the bill. It passed 7-0.

Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson was absent and the seat recently vacated by former Councilwoman Kristi Fulnecky remains empty.

The rezoning bill for a proposed medical office building was first tabled at the Aug. 27 meeting.

“I made the motion to table at the time because I believe that there were concerns raised in the area that had not yet been addressed,” Simpson said of the parcel at Lone Pine Avenue and Battlefield Road owned by Briarcliff Investments LLC.

The councilman organized a meeting with the development team, property owners and neighborhood representatives to discuss concerns about big box retail, apartment units and convenience stores filling the space.

Simpson’s amendment adds to the existing building restrictions; retail structures that exceed 14,000 square feet and businesses with 24-hour fuel sales are now prohibited.

To quell the apartment concern, the amendment also caps maximum density for long-term resident uses at 12 units per acre, or 96 units total, so long as they are located above the first floor or behind nonresidential property, according to city documents.

Briarcliff Investments intends to sell the parcel to an unnamed developer if the zoning is approved.

The long-term resident uses were added in case the prospective buyer backs out, said Geoffrey Butler of Butler, Rosenbury and Partners Inc., who represented the applicants Briarcliff Investments.

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