A vacant lot in downtown Springfield has been transformed into a public asset, the site adjacent to the Bushnell Building having been remade into a pocket park complete with a Greetings from Springfield mural, landscaping, built-in seating, and more.
And that’s not all. Still planned is flexible seating, lighting, and a wayfinding kiosk with attraction maps of both downtown Springfield and greater Clark County.
Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communications for the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau, the organization responsible for the park, has an even bigger vision than that, too.
"I could see the park becoming a place for staging events. There could be food trucks lining up in the alley behind it," Schutte says.
"As downtown grows up around it, the programming will grow, too."
The Greetings from Springfield mural, pocket park, and wayfinding kiosk are all part of a larger placemaking initiative taking place in downtown Springfield and North Fountain Avenue in particular.
"It’s important for us to make additional investments in that corridor, creating a vibrancy that can spread throughout downtown," Schutte says.
Signage and map kiosks are popping up around the city. Schutte says that while it’s not always a visitors bureau’s job to appeal to the locals, that’s what programs like these can do.
While signage and maps no doubt help out out-of-towners, they also give locals a deeper sense of place, better connecting them to Springfield — perhaps an even more effective way to attract visitors, by starting with the locals first.
Schutte credits one local, Jim Lagos, with playing a major role in making the pocket park happen. Lagos owns the neighboring Bushnell Building and was the owner of the original lot. When the visitors bureau came up with the idea for the pocket park, it took just one meeting for Lagos to donate the land for the park.
"We want to show people that they live in a great place," Schutte says.
"This builds pride in the community. That’s what a lot of these projects are for."
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