When the Heer’s Tower closed down in the 1960’s, the downtown area of Springfield, MO. lost a major economic and entertaining element. Since then, Springfield has been planning and working to get back a lot of the status that it once had. The city government had to bring attractions and business in the form of new business’s to spur development to accommodate the 151,580 citizens that reside in the small city. Mayor Tom Carlson and City Manager Tom Finnie have been heading the projects with the help of large developing firms such as the UDA or Urban District Alliance, and hope that projects such as the redevelopment of Heer’s Tower, SMSU’s Innovation center, and College Station will add not only attractions for the mass of people flooding into Springfield each year, but also bring in hundreds of new jobs to boost the economy and help support a growing society. Over the next couple of pages an analysis of the current and future projects, as well as the non-quantitative benefits and effects on the surrounding community will be looked at to further explain why the project is on the community’s agenda.
Tom Carlson calls the development of the downtown area, the “Center City.” “It will be a city within a city.” Not to long ago though Springfield was in a slump, after the huge factories of Zenith and GE went out of business, the only other major factory was Kraft. During the 1950’s, These companies employed thousands of workers and once they were out of the picture the economy started to level out. The opportunity to have the Center City, started in the 1980’s when sub-divisions around Springfield and surrounding towns, such as Nixa and Ozark, started booming. Since then, developer’s such as John Q. Hammons and new faces like Vaughn Post have sparked projects that have created a substantial buzz across the state. The developers took the idea of a new downtown and ran with it, using tax advantages such as state and historic tax credits, property tax abatement, gap financing and loans up to $40,000 to make facade improvements. Also, a low- interest loan program, using Community Development Block Grant Funds, has provided help for many business people. Since 1997, about $125 million has been invested in Center City.
All of these tax breaks and policies have led to some astonishing developments in employment and economic gains. According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), Springfield accounts for just 3% of Missouri’s workforce, but the area has created one-fourth of all new jobs in the state between March 2002 and March 2003, while Kansas City has reported net job loss and St. Louis reported minimal gains. Noting these facts, it is no surprise that the City is fully behind the idea of developing the downtown area, for it will provide hundreds of business opportunities as well as entertainment value for the entire city.
The development of the plans have been in the works for several years. Ideas, money and developers had to come together as well as the support of the community for any of the first steps to be taken. When looking at the plan from a public policy maker’s point of view, one has to take into account every possible angle. Dr. Deborah Stone, uses a couple of key points to assess any spending or policy before implementing it. Those points are as follows:
2.Identify alternative courses of action for achieving objectives
3.Predict the possible consequences of each alternative
4.Evaluate the possible consequences of each alternative
5.Select the alternative that maximizes the attainment of objectives
Now assuming the City Council used these elements to determine zoning permits, tax breaks, funding and overall implementation of the Center City project, one can break the move for growth in the downtown area down by each step.
1. The objectives for Center City are obvious. The City’s government saw a need and opportunity for huge economic growth and took advantage of the eager entrepreneurs to develop and build new buildings and projects. Springfield being the third largest city in the state of Missouri, put an emphasis for greater job opportunities, non-quantitative benefits such as entertainment, overall satisfaction for all the patrons of Springfield and a more prestigious standing amongst Missourians and the nation as one of the major topic’s for its agenda. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Greene County area ranked 21st of 315 urban counties for job growth and No. 15 among medium- sized metro areas in the country for doing business.
2. Alternative courses of action, could have been to simply do nothing. Or possibly re-zone areas of commerce for residential areas. The gamble could go either way, but the city chose to develop the area commercially and then give developers and residents options to choose from. Several of these options were developing a program to encourage realtors and lenders to target low-income housing or creating a public/private entity to acquire land for new construction of affordable housing have been considered and although may not make it into the cities 5 year plan, will be looked at further down the road.
3.Predicting the possible consequences have been considered by Tom Carlson and the rest of the city council and have been a major topic of review. First, would be the city’s support of the project. With all the new development in progress, the issue of filling all the new vacancies came up. With production already under way for projects such as “College Station” and the Heer’s Tower, developers were concerned with business’s filling the voids and pursuing a successful business. According to Tom Finnie, coordination of all the civic groups has been an issue. “We City Council have been experiencing the same problems every group effort has. The limited resources, of course… The biggest issue is marketing.” Limited resources are always an issue when it comes to implementing any public policy and it is a major concern for the projects at hand.
4. After the city pointed out possible problems, the a Cost Benefit Analysis had to be looked at. Are the risks of developing the area in question, without having adequate business’s already vouching for the spaces available, worth the gamble of millions of dollars of investments and tax dollars? The City Council and developing firms involved are seeking the support of the tax payers and local universities such as SMSU. According to Jim Baker, assistant to SMSU former President John Keiser, not all the money will come from the tax payers pockets. “In Phase I of the Jordan Valley Innovation Center, U.S. Representative Roy Blunt has secured the funding required. Once Phase II is done, the JVIC will create high-paying jobs and could spur new business around it….the different projects downtown will play roles in creating enough critical mass for change.”
5. Finally, would be the city’s decision to go ahead with the development and take the big risk. Jefferson City Developer Vaughn Prost, used the broken window theory, popularized in the early 80’s by The Atlantic Monthly magazine to describe Springfield’s downtown. He says “that when the buildings are fixed and begin to “work” again, they will generate tax revenue and bring jobs into the surrounding area, effecting all areas of urban development.”
Understanding Stone’s key points are just one way to look at the policy and work that has gone into the decision to develop the Center City. Some of the projects that have already mentioned are the Heer’s Tower and the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. These are just a few of the developments currently underway, many more are in the works.
College Station is a major development underway, from developer Scott Tillman and Architect Tim Rosenbury, who presented the plans for construction and redevelopment. It will include a movie theater and several other attractions including restaurants and retail space, for shopping areas. Accompanying College Station, will be a 450-space, three story parking deck above the 43,000 square feet of first-floor commercial space, for the retail stores. Tom Finnie says that a public-private project will help finance the bill for the parking ride. The private sector will operate the lower floors (the retail shops) and the city will operate and help fund the upper floors (the parking ride), also a special sales tax in the downtown area has been proposed to help fund the bill. This tax has not been approved but “referendum” will be used and the city council will ask for the voters’ approval of the proposal.
The other project that draws particular interest is the Jordan Valley Innovation Center. SMSU plans on turning the old MFA building into a state of the art research facility. This will do a number of things 1: Provide a place for current students to further their education, 2: Attract scientists to the area and provide them with state of the art facilities to conduct their research and further promote areas of science, and 3: It will attract higher paying jobs to the Springfield area; thus giving the economy a huge surge in jobs and money that will be pumped into Springfield’s business’s. According to Irvin Feller, “Universities have the upper hand, when developing facilities, as they are entitled to grants and low interest rate loans to help with the costs of expanding.”
With all these projects on the line, questions arise of efficiency and projected completion dates. One major goal of public policy is efficiency, are the programs and projects meeting deadlines? Can anything be done to improve production goals and final results? According to the Tillman Redevelopment Group, the College Station should be completed by mid-2006. The JVIC should be transformed from an old decaying MFA building to the state of the art research facility by 2007 and the $18 million dollar renovation of Heer’s Tower should see completion also by 2007. Questions of efficiency have been answered with the city government fully supporting the areas renovations and is asking that all of Springfield jump on board, as the final product will add psychological and economic benefits for years to come.
Another aspect of policy implementation is security. With the city government fully supporting all these changes, is the economic security of the city of Springfield being looked at fully? The projects that are being completed, don’t yet have all the vacancies filled, is this reason to worry about the projects? After reviewing the process of how the decisions were made, it is safe to say that “yes,” the security was well looked after. The city council cannot and would not gamble millions of dollars in investments, without considering all points of a thorough cost benefit analysis. Economic security was not only looked after, but the goal is to substantially improve the consumer’s market in Springfield.
After analyzing the plans to develop the downtown area of Springfield, we can assess that it is an safe and intelligent gamble. The newly revived buildings and business’s will provide people with social and economic benefits that can clearly be seen by the plans that the city has in mind. When the policy changes finally come into play the the tax codes, zoning issues and the economic viability of every inch of the downtown area will have to be reconsidered. Overall, the cost of all the renovations will give back much more than just good business and better jobs for area residents, but with changes to local universities such as SMSU to MSU, we can expect greater advances in education for area students and a city that will be gaining credibility on a national scale.
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Stone, Deborah. Policy Paradox. New York: Norton, 2001.
Holman, Gregory. “The Downtown Turnaround,” 417 Magazine, March 2005, 81.
Tom Carlson and Tom Finnie, interview by Laura Scott, Assosiated Press, 03 March 2005.
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“College Station: Proposed Development for Downtown.” February 2005.
Simmons, John. Urban Districts Alliance. January 2005.
Sparks, Glen. “Springfield, MO.:Boomtown Once Again.” The Regional Economist. July 2004
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