Springfield Southside slated for updates to help attract new, needed businesses

After the closing of the Kroger and the PNC bank on South Limestone Street in 2020, the City of Springfield had to really reevaluate not only the needs and wants of Southside residents but also how to attract necessary businesses back to the area.

This month, the City entered a redevelopment agreement with Groceryland to renovate and open a new grocery store in the Kroger building, which has been closed since March 2020, leaving Southside residents with little to no options for nearby fresh foods.

Though the City initially thought it would be more likely they would be able to attract a smaller grocer into part of the space and fill the rest of the with a shared-use facility and restaurant locations, similar to COhatch, the plan changed when Groceryland was interested in using the entire 29,000 sq ft space.

“It still leaves the adjoining city-owned lot to maybe have public events, food trucks, or other options,” Assistant City Manager Tom Franzen says.

Local physician Vipul Patel, M.D., and Ravindra Patel, president of Groceryland, Inc., are partners in the investment, which includes $2 million in property improvements to the former Kroger space.

The cost includes a new roof, ceiling, lighting, flooring, parking lot, and other facilities improvements. Renovations are slated to begin in June and the store hopes to officially open at the end of 2021 or early 2022, says Logan Cobbs, assistant to the city manager.

“Getting a grocer was our No. 1 priority,” Cobbs says, adding that now that the grocer is set, the City can focus more on next steps. “We can continue having these ongoing conversations and working to revitalize that area as a whole.”

The City has be part of multiple public input meetings to gather ideas about what is important to area residents and that they want and need, as far as future development on the Southside.

Though the grocery was the glaring issue, Franzen says, other issues that were identified included accessible healthcare, no banks, and better access to an entrepreneurial ecosystem that could support locally-owned and minority-owned businesses.

Cobbs says the City is in communications with a broker about the possible sale and next steps for the former PNC bank building.

“Banking is still at the forefront of our minds, as is medical care,” Cobbs says.

Franzen says the City also has been actively talking with investors to bring new and needed retail to the South Limestone corridor. No specifics are available yet.

The corridor itself is also slated for updates in the coming years. Though residents won’t see construction until 2024, the next two years will be used for right-of-way acquisition to allow for sidewalks set back farther from the roadway and new lighting, Cobbs says.

The project will happen in phases, but once complete, Frazen says it will extend from Interstate 70 to Singer Street, just North of where the new Groceryland will be.

“We want to make that a key gateway and a lot of making that happen goes into  lighting and walkability,” Cobbs says.

Also into the corridor will be the new exchange from I-70 to South Limestone Street. Under construction along with the I-70 widening project, the new exchange will feature nicer landscaping and 4-H clovers as a to nod to Clark County’s roots to the history of the organization, Franzen says.

“We’ve been working on creating plans by engaging residents to be able to understand what their needs are. That engagement is critical because it leads to developing plans and strategies to attract investors and infrastructure updates,” Franzen says. “If a developer wants to invest, they want to see that you’re planning, and we can use those tools to attract future businesses.

“The big vision is, we will be ready to use those tools to entice new development on the South end.”

Though the projected updates aren’t happening immediately, Franzen and Cobbs both say they’re hopeful the plans for moving forward and making these updates keep Southside residents invested in what’s next.

Engaging the Southside of Springfield and investing in updates is a strategic way to make the city as a whole stronger, Cobbs says, adding that now that there is strong forward momentum Downtown, it would be safe to say the City is working on connecting other puzzle pieces to continue bridging communities together.

“People no longer have to wonder what’s on the other end,” Franzen says. “People can see it and sense it, and that gives energy to the overall effort.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.

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