News

How About a Tourist Pop Up on the Plaza?

This week’s SJR story about the City’s interest in potentially moving Visit Springfield, our Convention & Visitors Bureau to a location around the Old State Capitol Plaza, got us thinking about what we’d experienced in other cities this summer. During Springfield’s tough budget times, if a better lease can’t be found, a compromise solution might be to host a visitors’ stand on the Old State Capitol next summer.

Here are what some other cities have done for highly trafficked areas:

Our Farmers Market is Epicenter of Eat Local Challenge

September is one of the most abundant months of the year for Illinois farmers, featuring warm season crops like tomatoes and melons alongside cool weather crops like lettuce, apples, and winter squash.

However, the return of school session, cooling temperatures, and an increasing disconnect between shoppers and seasonality have all led to a drop off in farmers market attendance during this month. The resulting decline in sales increases food waste and weakens the economic viability of small farms before entering their slower winter months.

“There is such a wide variety of products this time of year,” says Molly Gleason of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA has managed the Market on behalf of DSI for the past two years), “and because the harvest is so plentiful in September, it’s also one of the most affordable times to shop locally. Plus there’s all kinds of varieties and flavors that you won’t find in the grocery store, like baby fairytale eggplants and green striped zebra tomatoes. It’s really one of the best months to shop at your farmers market.”

The Eat Local Challenge, organized by ISA in partnership with farmers markets across central Illinois, aims to combat the annual slump in sales that farmers experience during the month of September by encouraging shoppers to pledge to buy locally.

All you have to do to participate in the Eat Local Challenge campaign is to pledge to spend $20 each week on locally grown food. Last year, the first year of the campaign, over 250 people took the Challenge across Central Illinois. This year ISA hopes to have 500 participants, which would mean at least $40,000 in sales of locally-grown food for the Central Illinois region.

Did you realize: if even half of the shoppers just at our Market participated, we would have over 2000 participants this year??

Registration for the Eat Local Challenge will open THIS SATURDAY during National Farmers Market Week. You can register in person by visiting the Market Booth at 4th and Adams or any Central Illinois residents can sign up online at www.buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org.

The first 250 participants will receive a free, USA made, farmers market tote bag filled with more information on shopping locally—available at the Market in September. Additionally, all Challenge participants will be subscribed to a weekly e-newsletter featuring seasonal recipes, farmers market meal plans, storage and food preservation tips, and updates on local food events going on throughout the region.

“September isn’t the winding down of the farm, it’s the full throttle peak season for us. We have tended our land and crops for six months getting to our grand finale and it’s disappointing when we have no one show up for our end of the year extravaganza,” says Jacque Suttill-Simpson of Suttill’s Gardens, a long-time Market vendor. “We farmers experience the ‘slump’ right when our best is yet to come.”

In addition to our Old Capitol Farmers Market, other participating markets include ones in Downtown Bloomington, Downs Village, Urbana, Champaign, the Peoria Riverfront, and Streator.

Emily and Chef Corey from Long Nine Junction are one of four chef teams providing a course at the Street Dinner.

In addition to taking the Eat Local Challenge, how else can you support the Old Capitol Farmers Market and the farmers who sell their goods every week? 

Thursday, September 7: Downtown Springfield Inc. Friends of the Market Street Dinner

Thursday, September 14: Slow Food Springfield Tour of Petersburg Poultry Processing

Thursday, September 21: Local Flavors Dinner at Engrained Brewing Company

Sunday, September 24: Illinois Stewardship Alliance Annual Harvest Celebration

Downtown Fashion Runway Show Highlights Our Comeback

Downtown Springfield Inc. and President Abraham Lincoln Springfield – a Doubletree by Hilton Hotel proudly invite local fashionistas of all ages and styles to a one-stop trunk show and runway experience featuring trendy fashions from downtown shops, timed perfectly for fall shopping sprees. Trendy, classic, casual, eclectic — you can find it all. Women’s, men’s, kid’s — in the last few years, our stores have dialed up their fashion options for you and the price points are divine.

Thursday, August 24, 2017
5-6 pm Red Carpet (for you!), Trunk Show, Cocktails
6-8 pm Runway Show & Silent Auction

Tickets are now available at the door for $35.

“We’re expecting to surprise a few people who haven’t shopped downtown for a while,” said Lisa Clemmons Stott, DSI Executive Director. “The downtown merchants are really excited to show their new lines of clothing and they’ve had a great time working together to make the night a memorable one.”

In 2012, the CLUE Group did a market study of downtown Springfield for us and reported that we had a serious lack of women’s fashion choices. Our entrepreneurs responded to the demand, and today you can see many trendy ensembles in the store windows downtown. Plus you get the curation and customer service that only a downtown shop can provide. That’s why we’re hosting a fun night of downtown fashion to highlight what you may not even realize is available in the district. Say you’ll be there on Facebook>

Tickets are $30 online and $35 at the door with proceeds benefiting DSI in their work to revitalize downtown and Prairie Center Against Sexual Assault, a downtown non-profit working to heal the trauma of sexual assault. This is the first year that PCASA has teamed up with DSI on the Dare to be Different Fashion Show. The ticket price includes admissions and appetizers. A frozen cocktail bar (with options for non-alcoholic versions) and other items will be available for purchase. Our guide for the night is Troy Armstrong, chosen by SJR Readers in both 2016 and 2017 as Best DJ.

In addition to the Trunk Show & Silent Auction, more than 70 looks will be curated for the runway by these 13 downtown area businesses featuring Springfield models of all ages, shapes and sizes:

Fashion Looks Provided By:
Daisy Jane's
Iris & Ivy
Itty Bitty Fashion Truck
Jim Herron Ltd.
Murphy's Loft
Recycled Records
The Roost
Springfield Vintage
Studio on Sixth
Sumac Shop at Dana Thomas House
What the Shirt
Wild Rose
Urban Sassafras
 We also cannot thank the event committee enough: Jane Mosey-Nicoletta, Jean Bruner-Jachino, Shelley Vaughan, Linda Renehan, Robert Sabin, Troy Armstrong, Alicia Bibb, Krissy Olsen and Tricia Schlosser.

 

Y Block Proposals

The Mayor assembled a committee to review the responses to an RFP to redevelop the block north of the Governor’s Mansion which, until recently, hosted the old YWCA building and served as a large parking lot.

The committee is likely to finish their deliberations within the next two months. Considering that some type of city investment (likely using Central Area TIF dollars) will be required to make a project a reality, the next procedural steps would be for the proposal to go before the Economic Development Commission, and then, the City Council.

The DSI Board hosted the groups for short presentations in May.

John Shafer Architects envisions a residential complex with first-floor retail on the north side, with park features on the south

View the formal proposal
Read their opinion editorial in the SJR about the project

EMS Midwest envisions a downtown college campus, a movie theatre with rooftop dining and several apartments on the north side, with park features on the south

View the formal proposal
Read their opinion editorial in the SJR about the project

North Mansion Y Block Development Inc. envisions a public park for all 2.3 acres

View the formal proposal
Read their opinion editorial in the SJR about the project

Generally, DSI is considering these questions when making an assessment of the strongest proposal:

  1. How does the project accelerate the growth of downtown becoming a residential neighborhood?
  2. How does the project complement the existing business fabric?
  3. How sustainable is the financial model for the project?

To date, there has been no avenue for general public input. Let DSI know your thoughts on the Y Block proposals>

Why It’s Worth It to Study Going Back to Two-Way Streets Downtown

Executive Director Lisa Clemmons Stott gave these remarks to the Springfield City Council this week.

This picture posted on Springfield Rewind shows that downtown had two-way traffic at 5th and Adams in 1949.

The use of Central Area TIF funds to study whether one-way to two-way street conversion makes cents – as in cash registers ringing – is a prioritized use of TIF that aligns with DSI’s goals to increase foot traffic in the downtown district.

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) urban planners told us to reconsider our one-way grid back in 2012 when they encouraged us to stay focused on building a residential downtown. This is an interesting factoid they shared: “Customers who arrive by bicycle or foot spend less per retail visit, but make more frequent visits overall, which means that they spend more on an annual basis.” The kicker: “As many cities have discovered, the retail districts with the slowest speeds and highest congestion are often the most successful.”

We are not the first city to study one-way conversion and this is not a fly-by-night strategy. Cities around the country have reverted to their original two-way streets to increase economic impact in their downtowns.

Louisville KY’s conversion happened long enough ago (2011) that planning scholars have been able to assess the economic impact with hard data:

  • Fewer collisions, less crime and higher property values
  • Traffic safety in the area improved even though the traffic volume increased
  • People were willing to exchange the slower speeds for more direct access to their destination
  • Crime rate actually decreased on two problem streets because more “eyeballs” on the street

In Lubbock, Texas, 86% of local business were in favor of more conversion after seeing the results of the first few completed streets because they credited it as one part of helping them experience growth after years of decline.

Other cities converting back to two-way streets:

This is potentially one part of a larger downtown transportation solution that is needed–including signage analysis and wayfinding installation – and a parking app–and that is why conversion’s effect on parking is also a very important aspect of this study.

The process of neighborhood improvement is a very complex one with lots of variables. The downtown business community recommends a Yes vote to fund the initial conversion study.

Outcome as reported by SJR’s Mary Hansen: Council gives initial OK to funding for two-way traffic study

Fourth of July Weekend Downtown

As always, beautiful historic downtown Springfield is the center of the action as we celebrate our nation’s birth and all of the freedoms we enjoy!

SATURDAY, JULY 1

Capital City Celebration by the Springfield Jaycees – Fireworks, a Kids Zone, Food, Music, and a Dog Beauty Pageant?! Get the details>
This event is funded and organized by volunteers and corporate sponsors. If you’d like to volunteer, please sign up here>

Downtown businesses are generally open from 10-5 pm on Saturdays, with bars and restaurants staying open late.

Street Closure Schedule for Capital City Celebration

Friday June 30 at 6 pm: Close Capitol between 4th and 5th street; Close 4th at Jackson north side of Jackson; Close 3rd street west of tracks south of Monroe; Close 3rd street east of tracks at Jackson
On Saturday, July 1: The SMTD transfer site will move to Jackson between 4th and 5th street south side and on 5th street between Jackson and Cook west side.

11am – 3 pm
The Illinois State Museum hosts Red, White & Blue Super Saturday. This free event allows kids can see art from the Museum’s collections, makecrafts, and play games all in red, white, and blue — plus have the opportunity to make an abstract art piece and learn about the history of the flag. Get the details>

TUESDAY, JULY 4

8:30-9:30 am
Although the Old State Capitol building will be closed for July 4, Ahh Yoga is celebrating the holiday with an all-levels class on the lawn. Get the details>

5-8 pm
The Elijah Iles House will host its annual “Clara Irwin’s Strawberry Party” on the lawn of the Iles House, 628 South Seventh Street. The public is invited to experience an old-fashioned Independence Day and purchase wonderful strawberry treats. Get the details>

If you have an Independence Day themed event happening downtown and want it added to the list, let us know!

Art Pop-Up Comes to Downtown Alley

Get ready to experience local art in the most unexpected venue. Downtown Springfield, Inc. (DSI) invites you to a one-night takeover and transformation of a boring downtown alley into a big city art club. The Art Alley Pop-Up takes place on Thursday, June 29 from 5-9 pm. Enjoy art, syncopated music and light show, an interactive mural, plus appetizers by Augie’s Front Burner and Floyd’s Thirst Parlor beverages!

Tickets are $15 at the door, which include admission and appetizers with proceeds benefiting downtown revitalization. All ages are encouraged and welcomed to attend. Our first ever alley party in the alley between the Reisch Building & the Old Town Mall between 4th & 5th Streets, just west of the Old State Capitol.

This event is made possible with partnership from Springfield Art Association and generous support from Neuhoff Media, Solomon Colors, AARP Illinois, Crawford Murphy and Tilly, Don Smith Paints and PPG Paints.

A music and light show will be produced in coordination by Neuhoff and Chicago light artist Brandon Mojica of ProSource. Art Alley will include a paint by colors mural for event goers to leave there own mark downtown. The south wall will feature 30+ local hanging art pieces with the north wall comprising of two larger scale murals by local artists Laura Zuniga and Immanuel Ahiable.

You can score free admission by serving as a volunteer for this event. Click to View Volunteer Opportunities on SignUp.com

 

Laura Zuniga is ART BY ZUNIGA.  She is an emerging artist currently residing in Springfield, IL.  Zuniga attended Benedictine University in Springfield. She completed her Bachelor’s in Studio Arts at Benedictine University in Lisle, IL.  Zuniga is a museum full of potential art projects that hopes will open people’s eyes.  She looks to bring many more creations that will tell stories and be appreciated by individuals who admire art just as much as she does.  Her mural Lion Chaser was inspired by Chase the Lion, a book about pursuing your dreams, given to her by a close friend who believes in her dreams as an artist.  The book is about going after your dreams.

”It inspired me and gave me the courage to pursue what God has placed in my heart,” Zuniga says. “Since I came to Springfield in the summer of ’08, it has always been a dream of mine to paint a mural downtown. The mural depicts this opportunity that I was blessed with and I hope that it will encourage other generations to do the same, to chase their lion.”

Immanuel Ahiable, a new exhibiting member at the SAA Collective gallery in Springfield, has incorporated visual art into his life. His mural, In Loving Memory, is inspired by the recent passing of his grandfather and his families roots in Ghana, West Africa. His passing brought new perspective to Ahiable’s life. The mural prominently featured the words of If a poem by Rudyard Kipling.

“Ever since the age of 4, and even before as a young boy who had just moved to the US, I always had a strong desire to create,” says Ahiable. “Visual arts always had a certain consistency in my life. It made sense to me that that this was my way of communication. I will use it to make the most beneficial impact on the world that I live in.”

Zuniga and Ahiables work has already in progress on the alley walls…So if you love art, murals, experiences, downtown or just want a big city feel for one night, drop in after work and kick-off the Fourth of July weekend in a new unique hip way!

Get event details here>

Frank Lloyd Wright’s 150th – and his relationship to Downtown

Downtown Springfield is super lucky to be chock-full of history and significant historical buildings — including the Dana Thomas House at 4th and Cook.  It was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, whom some consider America’s finest architect of all time. The Dana Thomas House Foundation and Springfield Historic Sites staff are giving you multiple opportunities to celebrate the great architect’s birthday this month (It is tomorrow, June 8!). Plus DSI is dedicating the most recent mural in our ARTification Public Art Project – which pays homage to Wright and his Dana Thomas designs in a big way, this month.

The Dana Thomas House is located at 301 E Lawrence Ave. Tours are available 9 AM – 4 PM, Wed-Sun, 10 AM – 2 PM Mondays and Tuesdays. All of these events listed above the ** line take place at the House.

Thursday, June 8 – THE BIG DAY
Enjoy refreshments in the Sumac Shop; Take a birthday photo with Frank Lloyd Wright; Now available, all new Wright in Springfield 2018 Calendar.

Friday, June 9, 10:15 AM and 1:15 PM Tour: Wright Concepts
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 10, 1:15 PM NEW Tour: The Restoration of the Dana-Thomas House
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 10, 6 PM Concert: Frank Lloyd Wright in Words and Music — Join acclaimed musicians David Cain and Larry Gray for an exploration of Frank Lloyd Wright’s legacy through music and words.
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Saturday, June 24, 1:15 PM NEW Tour: The Restoration of the Dana-Thomas House
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

Sunday June 25, 11:15 AM and 1:15 PM NEW Tour: Animals and Architects — Designed for families. Animals and Architects is a 30 minute tour that will begin with an activity in the courtyard and explore representations of animals inside the house.
All events are free however reservations are required and donations are suggested. Contact the House at 217-782-6776 for concert and tour reservations.

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Thursday, June 22 from 4-5 pm
Join DSI for the Public Dedication of the Frank Lloyd Wright window mural on the back of the building at 5th and Monroe. Say you’ll be there on Facebook>

“Prairie Sumac,” painted by Springfield artist Troy Freeman, is from a Frank Lloyd Wright window design that can be seen locally at the Dana-Thomas House. Thanks to the City of Springfield, sponsorship from AIA Illinois, building owner Curtis Tillett, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for making this mural a reality.

Lavender & Laine Vintage Market Comes to Washington St. this Saturday

Rebekah Lindvall and Family

Scouring flea markets for antiques has long been a favorite pastime for Springfieldians Chelsea Ewald and Rebekah Lindvall; however, it wasn’t until a year ago that the two realized they were constantly driving OUT of Springfield to attend such events. According to Lindvall, “Once we had that epiphany, it struck us that perhaps bringing a market to Springfield might be a worthwhile endeavor.” After mulling it over, Ewald and Lindvall decided to give it a shot and the Lavender & Laine Vintage Market was born.

Neither of the two organizers has a background in business and readily admit that they have been learning as they go. One of the first decisions they needed to make included selecting a location for their market. Ewald states that there was only ever one location they were truly interested in.

Chelsea Ewald and family.

“We knew immediately that downtown Springfield would be the most ideal place to host this event,” she says. She explains that the downtown vibe was exactly what they were looking for. “We love downtown Springfield and have long been patrons of its shops and restaurants. But its history is what really made us land on this area for our location.”

The market will be located right in front of the Old State Capitol Building on Washington Street. The two believe it will be the perfect place for their 30 vendors to sell antiques, vintage and handmade items. Should this year’s market thrive, they plan to make it an annual event.

The Lavender & Laine Vintage Market makes its downtown debut this Saturday, June 10 from 9am-4pm. Admission is $5 at the entrance (found at both 5th and 6th Street) and children under 12 are free. The Market will feature great shopping, live music, décor demonstrations, a photo booth, a kids craft area and more.

Learn more by going to the Lavender and Laine website or by visiting their Facebook page.

Lavender & Laine Vintage Market is a great addition to your downtown weekend! The Old Capitol Farmers Market takes place from 8 am – 12:30 pm, and there are Frank Lloyd Wright birthday commemoration concerts and more. Plus all of our special shops, restaurants and bars. Check out DSI’s events calendar for all of the details.

The Man Behind the Mail

Everybody knows OJ, the mail carrier for the Old State Capitol Route! But how MUCH do you know about OJ?

Harry Crowder AKA “OJ” delivers mail and packages to many of us in the downtown area. But mail is not all he brings with him — we are also the daily recipients of his generous and warm spirit! No matter what kind of day one has, OJ’s standard good mood is sure to brighten it. With his big smile, warm heart, and listening ear he is always a joy to see.

OJ was born and raised in Chatham, and graduated from Chatham High School in 1990. He got his nickname from his Mom, who didn’t want to have him come running every time she yelled for his Dad, who he shares his first name with.

From Chatham, he went on to join the Air Force, where he worked as a Fuel Systems Specialist. When his Air Force base closed in 1992, he decided to join the postal service. That means that OJ has worked for USPS for 24 years. During that time, he has been gifted with three children; Jordan 23, Kaitlyn 20, and Braiden 14.

OJ also is the proud bearer of a bowling record that still stands six years later: 34 out of 36 strikes during a game at Laketown Lanes for a score of 886.

What does OJ like most about downtown Springfield? It’s definitely the festivals. One event, especially, holds a special place in his heart: Old Capitol Blues and BBQ (which DSI ran for many years). OJ was there at the very first Blues & BBQ Festival in 2004 to cook up some delicious barbeque. You can still find him at several downtown festivals, volunteering to serve you a cold one at the beer truck.

OJ also loves downtown during the Christmas holidays and is a fan of too many local eateries and bars to mention. “I’d like to see more growth in local tourism, and hope that word will continue to spread about all that downtown Springfield has to offer,” he says with a grin.