The Future of Springfield, What it Could Look Like

Fox Illinois' Matt Witkos explores what is on the economic horizon for Springfield. (WRSP)

Springfield is a town of rich history.

It's a regional hub of historic landmarks, retail and opportunity.

A study by the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission shows a decline in population growth in the capitol city by .12%.

“We need more people we need more young people to stay here and live here,” said Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Norms Simms.

It's not the only downward trend.

Big box stores have either closed their doors or planning to do so.

According to the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, they expect job growth to be .1% annually over the next 10 years.

“People who are buying on retail and engaging in commerce online for example, is changing the marketplace,” said Simms.

I sat down with city leaders and asked what they're doing to fix the problem.

“Creation of the enterprise zone, downtown TIF is crucial, we did renew that, but the real key is making sure the utility, which we have put on better financial footing, is to use that as an economic driver, “said Langfelder. “So if there is a new company that wants to relocate to here or business expansion, we would be able to use that as an economic driver, by lowering the utility rate possibility.”

Chris Hembrough, CEO and President of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, says numerous groups have come forward with development ideas, but he says not having a state budget is holding back investment.

“So the folks know what to expect even if is not what they want,” said Chris Hembrough, President & CEO, the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce. “To know what they are going to get and what the environment is going to be like that they have to operate in, will be a huge thing.”

Mayor Langfelder says he'll keep pushing to create business opportunities even without a state budget, but he looks forward to seeing one passed.

“I think it would be like you opened up the dam and water came rushing through,” said Mayor Langfelder.

I asked what projects he's promoting to spur economic growth and attract new residents.

One is the Y-block in downtown Springfield.

The city is reviewing proposals from developers on what might fill the Y-block.

Langfelder says he wants development to start by December when the city's bicentennial celebration begins.

“A walkable corridor that connect the Lincoln home area all the way to the capital,” said Mayor Langfelder.

Langfelder also hopes to create 400 more housing units downtown.

“What really needs the concentration is our inner core because that has the greatest propensity for economic development,” said Mayor Langfelder.

Another focus is building underpasses along the 10th Street corridor for high speed rail.

“That puts it in the timeline for the 10-year project, and that's the first time that anything has been done to cement the corridor to get anything done,” Mayor Langfelder said.

The mayor says moving rail traffic off 3rd Street corridor will be an economic driver.

He envisions a new transportation hub at 10th Street and Adams Street, and a trolley line or bike path in place of the 3rd street tracks.

“Natural progression because it will happen naturally once you move that obstacle it'll be prime for development,” said Langfelder

Whether it's one year down the road or ten, the mayor says he's working on growing business now.

“We want to take advantage of our assets, so you know are finical industry and medical facilities,” said Langfelder. “We are really on the cusp of great things. You know we can really make it the model city we all want.”

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