Part III of III: Sustainability in Downtown Springfield

Happy Earth day everyone!!

So far we’ve met with Michael Higgins about sustainable food, Leah and Rachael of the Kidzeum on Education, and now, we meet with Michelle Knox (pictured to the left) from WindSolarUSA Inc.

Solar power is a trend, there is no doubt about it. But we couldn’t be happier with this trend and hope that the momentum continues for generations to come! Solar energy has been with us for some time now and it isn’t unusual for us to see panels on a roof of a business or even a home.  With technology development, solar panels have become widely used and it isn’t just clean energy enthusiasts who install them. Businesses like WindSolarUSA, hear the demands of the public and work hard to make solar affordable and feasible for all walks of life!

In the topic of climate change, we are all encouraged to think “glocally”. When it comes to the environment, we all live on the same planet and the “well, it’s not my backyard” logic doesn’t apply. Michelle states that “we all need to be environmentally conscious”. She goes on to describe how a 10k watt residential, single home application could off set 10 tons of CO2 emissions per year! We’ve mentioned before that small steps add up to great impacts. So, imagine multiplying that 10 tons by the 25 year lifespan of the system and adding it to everyone else that goes solar. (Ummm AMAZING!)

Not only does solar power have an incredible impact on the climate but it also is financially sound for those who invest! Being able to make their return back and more with-in as little as three years. Michelle also takes pride in the fact that all supplies is American made and the installation process creates new jobs for local communities!

Michelle sees an incredible future for Springfield in the realm of Solar power. She looks forward to bringing solar to low-income homes, non-profit organizations, and bringing other opportunities to our local community!

Remember: Little steps add up, we all live on the same planet, we can make a change!

 

Part II of III: Sustainability In Downtown Springfield

Last week, we met with Michael Higgins and learned about his approach with “doing the we best we can.” Our food system is a big part of our environment. Eating local and buying from small farmers are all  part of lessening our carbon footprint while contributing to our local economies.

Leah Wilson, new Executive Director and Rachael Thomson, founder and board president of the Kidzeum.

This week, we’re meeting with Rachael Thomson (Board President) and Leah Wilson (Executive Director) of the Kidzeum Health and Science Children’s Museum.

Rachael and Leah believe that sustainability starts with the young future leaders of the world. Starting in 2004, the concept of the Kidzeum was born to bring awareness to childhood health and obesity while teaching concepts of environmental stewardship. Not only are they using an already existing building as the home of the Kidzeum, but they are also creating ways to be more energy efficient. Efficiency measures include all LED lights, doing as much as they possibly can through digital outlets, having all mechanical and electrical systems meet the current energy code, and using photocell sensors near windows, just to list a few. Leah says staff will be very conscious of their own individual carbon footprints too.

The Kidzeum will have many exhibits that promote conservation and sustainability includng a Farm to Market Gallery that teaches visitors the story of seed through plant cycle, harvest, storage, processing and distribution in efforts to promote buying local and reducing carbon footprints. Another exhibit will teach children how to reduce their own carbon footprints in their own homes.

Leah says that sustainability is a “contact-sport” where the best way to learn is to let kids get their hands into things. Rachael and Leah feel that through education, we can help better serve the planet. Rachael states, “Kids are mold-able and will be inheriting the mess that older generations are leaving behind.” To change the paradigm in which we live, we need to start young in education and teach “reduce and reuse” as something that IS the status quo.

Often in the realm of sustainability, it’s easy to lose hope. But, having just one meeting with Rachael and Leah reignites that hope for the future! We cannot wait to bring this museum to life!!

Follow the Kidzeum on Facebook to stay up to date on all of the progess!

*This sustainability blog post is the Second of a three part series about how Downtown Springfield organizations contribute to sustainability initiatives.*

Part I of III: Sustainability in Downtown Springfield

Ice caps are melting, our population is growing, and our winters are getting longer. So, what does that mean for our farm-dependent state?  In Illinois, our farmers depend on the land and climate to work together so that they, as growers, can yield bountiful crops.

Often, we are left overwhelmed as to what we can do to help the earth. From recycling, eating and shopping local, to turning the lights off when you leave a room, sustainability starts small and at the heart. Downtown Springfield, Inc. interviewed three of our business owners regarding their efforts to make Springfield sustainable, delving deep to showcase what makes them unique.

Michael Higgins, owner and chef of Maldaner’s Restaurant, says that buying from small farmers and eating organic is the way to go. Coming from California, one thing Higgins wanted to do when he arrived in Central Illinois was to bring more variety to Springfield. He noticed that the Midwest grew really great tomatoes, but unfortunately only one species seemed to exist. By working with local farmers and by providing them with seed, Higgins was able to add to the Midwest variety. Then in the late ’80’s, Higgins began offering organic chicken to his customers by working with farmers he met at the Illinois Product Show. One can see the pride in Higgins’ eyes as he speaks of the bond between the consumer and farmer. “It’s 100% trust,” he states. Small Farmers, away from agri-business, “ARE small businesses and we need to remember that,” Higgins says.

We are trusting these farmers to feed us with incredible food that provide us with the nutrients we need and at the same time, they are trusting us to understand that where we buy from is important.  Buying from farmers markets and your local or small farm not only helps them but helps our community, and helps our planet. We asked Higgins what he thought was the best solution to feeding our growing population while sustaining our planet and he had the best answer: “Do the best you can.”

How does buying organic help the planet? 

Organic farming is less intensive on our landscapes causing less erosion to our soil compositions. While it does often require more land in general, the amount of pesticides and herbicides are far less than conventional commodity farming — meaning less chemical run-off to our water systems and airways. While too much demand on small farms can do harm by exploiting them, the good news it that more and more “big business” farmers are transitioning to organic due to the consumer demand!

Like Chef Higgins says, all we can do is try our best. Try our best to educate ourselves as to what is harmful to ourselves, others, and the planet. While remembering that even the smallest act is helping and that if we all did one small act, like buying local, those many small acts add up to a pretty big one!

Stay tuned for next weeks’ sustainable highlight when we meet with new Director Leah Wilson and founding Board President Rachael Thomson of the Kidzeum Health and Science Children’s Museum.

*This sustainability blog post is the first of a three part series about how Downtown Springfield organizations contribute to sustainability initiatives.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illinois Bicentennial Essay + Art Contest

DEADLINE: MAY 2, 2018

TOPICS OF CHOICE BY GRADE LEVEL:

For further detail of each topic please click above.

ELIGIBILITY
Bicentennial essay and art contests are open to students who attend a school in Sangamon County. Individual contest descriptions may limit the age and/or grade of eligibility based on selected topic or sponsor request. Immediate family members of board members of the Illinois Bicentennial Coordinating Committee of Springfield (IBCC of Springfield) or of the sponsoring organizations for individual contests are not eligible to participate. Void where prohibited by law.

SUBMISSIONS SENT TO:
SPRINGFIELD ART ASSOCIATION. 700 N. 4TH STREET, SPRINGFIELD. IL 62702

JUDGING
The winner of the Contest will be determined by judging all the entrants’ submissions based on the criteria established by contest sponsors. All entries to an individual contest will be judged using the criteria listed on the contest description. Judges will be selected by the IBCC of Springfield, but will not include members of the Board of Directors. The decision of the judges is final and binding on all matters relating to this contest.

PRIZES
There will be first, second and third place winners for each contest. Prizes will be different for each individual contest – review the contest description for complete information. All taxes, if any, are the responsibility of the winners or their guardians. The IBCC of Springfield will not be responsible for any loss, liability or damage arising out of any winner’s acceptance or use of the prize. All prizes are guaranteed to be awarded.

Selection of Winners: Winners will be selected within 30 days of the contest deadline date and notified by email. Return of prize or prize notification as undeliverable will result in disqualification and an alternate winner may be selected. Entry and/or acceptance of prize(s) constitutes permission for the IBCC of Springfield to use the winner’s contest entry, name and/or likeness for advertising and trade purposes without further compensation or authorization, worldwide and in perpetuity, in any and all forms of media, now known and hereafter devised, unless prohibited by law.

CONDITIONS
The IBCC of Springfield is not responsible for lost, late, misdirected or illegible entries, lost connections, miscommunications, failed computer or telephone transmissions, other technical difficulties or failures. The IBCC of Springfield is not responsible for any damage to user’s computer system from downloading/uploading any information necessary to participate in the contest or other technical difficulties or errors of any kind. Limit one entry per person. All entries become the property of the IBCC of Springfield and will not be returned.

The IBCC of Springfield reserves the right to terminate or modify this contest at any time for any reason. In this event, winners will be selected based on entries received to date of termination.
If you wish to receive a list of prize winners or have any questions about the Contest, specify your request and write to: IBCC of Springfield, P.O. Box 9108, Springfield, IL 62791-9108.

DSI Seeks Program & Event Manager

JOB TITLE: PROGRAM & EVENTS MANAGER
Download this information as a document>
Applications close: April 6, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.
Responsible to: Executive Director
Status: Full Time (40 hours per week)
Hours: Regular full-time, with occasional evenings and weekends
Benefits: Package to be negotiated
Compensation: $35,000 – 45,000, depending on experience

ABOUT DOWNTOWN SPRINGFIELD INC
Downtown Springfield, Inc. (“DSI”) is a 501(c)6 business association and Main Street organization working to increase economic and cultural vitality in historic downtown Springfield. DSI is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2018. Our current issue areas are Vitality, Vacancies, Volume and Vision.

SUMMARY OF POSITION
The Program and Events Manager develops and implements fundable programs and events that increase foot traffic in the downtown district. S/he should bring a strong existing network of relationships to DSI and be fearless in seeking partnerships and support for revitalization efforts. The Manager is a leadership position that requires savvy and creativity to work with our many stakeholders and help increase our district’s brand recognition as a cutting edge, entrepreneurial, fun and fabulous, growing district.

DESIRED CHARACTERISTICS
• Experience in the non-profit sector
• Track record of developing and building financial and moral support for new programs
• Experience in event management
• Understanding of neighborhood business districts
• Skilled in public speaking, community outreach and effective networking
• Entrepreneurial spirit and love for urban revitalization

PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES
• Program and Service Delivery — Designs, markets, promotes, and delivers high quality programs that help to revitalize downtown. Finds and secures funding for programs.
• Council Guidance & Support — Provides staff support to various committees assisting with program delivery.
• Event Management — Effectively produces DSI events and activities utilizing our volunteer network.
• Community and Public Relations — Works alongside Executive Director to effectively communicate on behalf of the organization and the downtown district.
• Other Duties as Assigned — Other specific administrative and promotion-related duties as defined by the Executive Director.

QUALIFICATIONS
• Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent experience
• Experience in non-profit or government sector
• Technology savvy
• Demonstrated ability to work effectively with a variety of constituents and personality types

PREFERRED
• Experience in community development organization, chamber or retailers organization
• Previous events management experience
• Previous membership organization experience

CANDIDATE SUBMISSION PROCESS
Prior to April 6, 2018 at 5:00 p.m., qualified and interested candidates are invited to mail or email your resume and a cover letter addressing why this position aligns with your experiences, skills, professional goals and personal passions, with “Program and Event Manager Search” as the Subject, to: Lisa Clemmons Stott, Executive Director, Downtown Springfield, Inc., 3 W Old State Capitol Plaza, Suite 15, Springfield, IL 62701 or lisa@downtownspringfield.org. Our timetable is to have the selected candidate start on May 1.

Play Bocce Ball Downtown

Spring time is everyone’s favorite season, especially us at Downtown Springfield, Inc. And we have some good news about everyone’s favorite activity! The gate is now open to join the Obed and Isaac’s Bocce Ball League!

I think I speak for all of us when I say, we all love sitting in the beer garden on a warm sunny day with a beer in hand, with good company, and fun games to play.

The best part? It’s so easy to join the Bocce Ball League. Just Email with the following information:

– Team Name & Captain
– Preferred League Day (SundayMonday or Tuesday)
– Captain phone & email address
– Interested in becoming a paid referee?
 Who says we can’t all feel like we’re true Italian’s playing a game of Bocce in one of the best hang out spots of the Spring, right here in Downtown Springfield!
 (P.S. fun fact: Bocce Ball originated from Ancient games played in the Roman Empire)

 

Restaurant Installs Technology to Help Visually Impaired

Maldaner’s Restaurant is the first downtown business — but likely not the last — to install technology to help visually impaired individuals access the business, thanks to a partnership with Sensible Innovations, also a DSI member and an Innovate Springfield member. Sensible Innovations is a Springfield-based technology company whose Aware audible way-finding app for visually impaired people was recently named Consumer Electronics Show 2018 Innovation Awards Honoree.

Aware works with iBeacons, to provide indoors and outdoors turn-by-turn navigational directions, and location descriptions, designed with a focus on visually impaired people, and plays in real time where and when it matters.

“Our visually impaired customers can now order from the menu, without asking a sighted person for help, because it is listed in the app. They can also easily navigate the restaurant without assistance allowing them the independence they deserve,’ said Chef Higgins. “For us, installing the iBeacons was a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to make your business accessible for all?”

To download the app, search “Aware Wayfinding Sensible Innovations” in your app store.

As Chef Higgins is the first proprietor in downtown Springfield to install the technology required for Aware, Sensible Innovations founder and CEO Rasha Said is championing Chef Higgins’ commitment to his patrons.

“Michael and I collaborated on this project to encourage other local businesses, especially those downtown, to install the iBeacon technology to allow people who are visually impaired the same opportunities, when dining, as those who are sighted,” said Rasha.

Sensible Innovations is a member of Innovate Springfield, a social innovation and business incubator situated in downtown Springfield. Katie Davison, the organization’s executive director said, “We think this is only the beginning for the Aware app to penetrate the Springfield market. The opportunities for the app to provide way-finding assistance to the Springfield community are endless.”

Aware is making a positive impact on the lives of visually impaired people across the city and further afield.

Downtown Springfield, Inc. executive director Lisa Clemmons Stott said she was extremely excited about the launch of Aware at Maldaner’s, which is a member of DSI, “As the ‘front door’ of Springfield, downtown businesses welcome people from around the world. Chef Higgins is leading the way to even more inclusivity by utilizing this technology. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if downtown Springfield was the first neighborhood in the nation to support visually-impaired individuals in this way?”

Rasha and her team have placed iBeacons at Glenwood High School in Chatham and Mary Bryant Home for the Blind in Springfield, the Rosa Parks Hempstead Transit Center in New York and at The Chicago Lighthouse.

Aware has a US utility patent and was coded by Springfield-based Levi, Ray & Shoup Web Solutions.

For more information visit sensible-innovations.com.

2017 Best of Downtown Awards

On January 25, DSI celebrated its 25th anniversary as a business organization representing the interests and vision of a strong downtown neighborhood. That included 18 years of annual awards celebrating the most buzzworthy people and places of the year.

The 25th Annual Dinner was supported by premier sponsors Hanson Professional Services and President Abraham Lincoln Hotel a Doubletree by Hilton. It was the first time in DSI’s history that the dinner was held at the BOS Center. More than 550 guests were in attendance.

Visit our Facebook page to see more pictures from the evening>

Thanks to WSEC Public Television for taping the evening for broadcast:

Congrats to all of our 2017 recipients! 

2017 Best Signage
Tacology 101

2017 Impactful Public/Private Partnership
Artistic Parklet at 6th and Washington: Urban Sassafras and Capitol Area Realtors

2017 Best Event
The Parent Place’s Halloween Parade

2017 Best Retail
Springfield Vintage

2017 Best Restaurant
Long Nine Junction

2017 Best Nightlife
The Legacy Theater

2017 Best Creative Promotion
Willow & Birch’s Social Media Campaign “Countdown to Downtown”

2017 Innovative Business Concept
Hair of the Dog Bar/Bershop

2017 Best Not-for-Profit Initiative
District 186 Public School Foundation Bookfair Pop-up

Best Renovation
Loukinens’ on 4th

Best Holiday Window Display
Wild Rose

Green Leadership
Chris Nickell & Partners/Rooftop Solar Installations

Downtown Advocate
Erin Svendsen

DSI Volunteer of the Year
Dana Saal

Wally Henderson Lifetime Achievement
The Late Al Eck, Jr.

Guests were treated to aerial performances by Divas in the Air, and national recording act Fleekbass serving as the evening’s house band. Mayor Jim Langfelder gave the annual State of the Downtown address, focusing many of his remarks on his plans for the Y Block, including green space, areas for interactive experiences, and potentially – hopefully – a downtown higher education/innovation hub.

DSI Outgoing President Tony Comerio of Hanson Information Services passed the gavel to 2018 President Kevin Kuhn of Kuhn & Trello Consulting. The new 2018 Board of Directors was formally recognized for the first time.

For the 2017 awards, the public made nominations for every category except DSI Volunteer of the Year and Lifetime Achievement, which were selected by DSI Leadership. The nominations were all vetted by a DSI committee consisting of current members and Past Presidents of the organization.

 

Spotlight: Youngest Holiday Pop-Up Proprietor

As part of its focus on economic vitality, DSI facilitated a number of pop-up stores for the Holiday Walks again this year, to launch new entrepreneurs and highlight great downtown first-floor commercial spaces that deserve a permanent tenant. The pop-ups are possible because of generous property owners who worked with DSI to provide no-cost, low-cost or utilities-only leases for the five weeks of the Walks.

Read more about the other six downtown Holiday Walk pop-ups>

Proprietor Aaliyah Kissick meets the Lincolns during Small Business Saturday. Her pop up is open thru the Walks.

The youngest “proprietor” of our 2017 pop-up program is a 17-year-old senior at Athens High School, who is building on the legacy of the Myers Brothers Department Store at Washington & Fifth by trying out a brick-and-mortar experience in the former Mens Department.

Aaliyah Kissick started AK Boutique, an online retail outlet featuring modern, trendy clothes in June 2017 with support from friends and family. “The Boutique combines two of my great loves: deals and fashion,” says the former Miss Jr.  Teen Illinois and in-demand model (including at the Dare to be Different Fashion Show in August which highlighted twelve downtown stores with women’s clothing). “My motto is ‘We take the work out of thrifting for you’ so you don’t have to be overwhelmed or worried you won’t find something perfect for you,” she says. The clothes she hand-picks for sale are all popular within the last three years, with most items under $15.

Aaliyah has been drawn to the retail world as early as she can remember. She says that since she was about three feet tall, she always made a beeline toward the clearance sections of clothing stores with the natural inclination to organize the jungle of disorganized, packed racks.

After a brief stint working at a local clothing store, she knew she could put her own personal stamp and style on a retail venture. Her emphasis is on making every “body” look beautiful and taking the guesswork out of thrifting for her customers.

Her personal goal with AK Boutique has been to save as much as she can to attend college for a business degree. The opportunity to branch out as a brick-and-mortar for the holidays was an opportunity she just couldn’t pass up, both for the experience and the potential to increase her sales.

AK Boutique offers:
-Sizes XXS to 5X
-Long sleeve shirts, short sleeve shirts, sweaters, jackets, coats, holiday dresses, casual dresses, jeans, dress pants, leggings, skirts, shoes, and purses
-Friendly, helpful staff

Her goal after college? To open a permanent retail boutique in Springfield, of course!

Fashion Show on December 9

On Saturday, December 9, AK Boutique will be hosting a fashion show at 2 pm in the pop-up located at 101 S 5th Street (Washington Street Entrance) and everyone is encouraged to come and check out the available clothing and styled looks. “The models will be local girls with natural beauty to celebrate body positivity,” says Aaliyah.

About the Space

This is the second year that the Myers Brothers Building has hosted a pop-up in the first floor space. It has a beautiful interior and a great history. After decades as one of the city’s top shopping destinations, Myers Brothers Department Store sold out to Bergner’s in 1979, which operated in that location until it moved out to the mall in 1986. AG Edwards had their offices there from 1987-97, and then the non-profit Illinois Assistive Technology Program moved to Spring Street in 2015. To inquire about leasing the space, contact Myers Commercial Realty.

 

What the Comp Plan Says About Downtown

Rather than attempting to stamp suburbia on our historic downtown as previous comprehensive plans did, “Forging a New Legacy,” Springfield’s new comprehensive plan, allows the community to recognize the uniqueness of each area and the opportunities (and challenges) that go with that uniqueness.

Can Springfield forge ahead with vision as the title of the newest comprehensive plan supposes? Only time will tell.

The plan, now available for public review, makes long-overdue and much-needed updates to the most recent version from 2000.

Although this new plan includes major transportation arterials that were described in previous versions (a strong nod toward outward growth), it does attempt to help steer our focus and attention back toward the center.

“Forging a New Legacy” highlights an increasingly relevant issue: rate of growth. The plan projects that Springfield will grow at around 10 percent over 20 years, or one-half of one percent per year. This conservative (and likely realistic) view on the rate of growth is important because it draws our attention back to preserving what the plan refers to as “legacy neighborhoods.”

By preserving legacy neighborhoods, the costs to city government do not rise as sharply over time (increased roadway maintenance, fire protection coverage, sewerage, etc.). The call for neighborhood master plans, including (and especially) in the central business district, is an opportunity for Springfield to address smaller details that are not necessarily at issue in other parts of the city.

In a similar vein, the comprehensive plan also includes direction for what it calls “special areas,” as well as proposed “opportunities.” These special areas should demand a greater focus, and the authors recognize that additional details must be worked out in accordance with some general principles set forth in the overall plan.

Also of interest to fans of downtown — the plan makes the assumption that railroad relocation will occur and that Third Street will ultimately be transformed into a greenway.

The public is welcome to comment on the plan until Thursday, November 16. Then it goes to the city council for formal adoption. You can access the plan (and other relevant documents) at www.springfield.il.us/Businesses/2037CompPlan.aspx.

This post was written by Steven Simpson Black, who runs his own small business while earning a planning degree from UIS.

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