A renaissance feeling has taken over the Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee (CSPARC), as its members look to the future of a new Springfield, a new committee name and a jingle with which the public can identify.
At a brainstorming session on Tuesday, March 19, CSPARC president Bob Gray talked about their vision.
"The kind of things we'll be looking for fit with the theme of downtown. We want to develop a sense of place and draw out the sense of community. We want to present the problems with the solutions," he said.
Skeeter Scheid, who is with the Springfield art community and also a member of CSPARC, divulged their first step, which was a theme for the Springfield Cultural Center: "Renaissance at the Crossroads."
"On many different levels, we are a crossroads," she said.
THE BASIC PLAN for their "new beginning" starts with the same map they had followed in earlier meetings with sections of the downtown area west of I-95 planned for rebuilding. A task force was formed last fall to approach the revitalization plan from another angle. That task force consists of 10 people from around the community. Doctors, school executives and Chamber of Commerce members make up the team.
"It really reflects all aspects of the community," Scheid said.
Some of the elements Gray discussed were a common theme for areas west of I-95, with the downtown buildings visible from the highway, mixed-use development that involves history, with some around-the-clock activity. At a closer examination, the "around-the-clock" part was trimmed to "late night."
According to the task-force report, "Part of the program's focus is to assist in upgrading the attractiveness of Springfield in order to enhance the competitiveness of the Springfield business community, particularly retail establishments, and improve circulation throughout the area, while maintaining the community-serving function of the commercial area."
One problem the task force identified was a lack of a unifying architectural theme or identity in the community business center south of Old Keene Mill Road, that is, down in the area of Lee Center, Outback Steakhouse, CJ Nichols and Genesis Credit Union.
"The objective of the task force is to market the downtown. We want to encourage people to the downtown area and promote businesses to want to come back to downtown," Gray said.
KICKING OFF this renewed plan is a "Name That Downtown" contest for a name for downtown Springfield, and one that will be adopted by CSPARC as well. Scheid said the acronym does not explain what they're doing.
"It [new name requirement] really does express what we're doing with CSPARC, too. We're proud of who we are and where we are now, and this will explain where we're going," she said, noting that the community input will make them all part of the sequence. "We want the community to do that. That's our first step to getting a real sense of place," she added.
Gray threw in the desire to explain what CSPARC is doing through a name change, too.
"We're thinking we want to change the name of the organization, too," he said.
The prize for naming the downtown area is a $200 gift certificate at Fisher's Hardware. Applications must be in by May 1, and the winner will be announced at the Springfield Days Festival, May 30-June 1.
"Now's the time to declare this the start," Gray said.
ALTHOUGH THE SPRINGFIELD area did have a history involving Lord Thomas Culpeper in 1673, the Ravensworth tract in the 1700s and parcels owned by the family of Robert E. Lee connected to the city by a railroad, there was not a lot of interest in the area until 1947, when Edward R. Carr bought 300 acres in the heart of Springfield. Years later, he bought another 1,900 acres, and then Crestwood Construction Co. purchased 500 acres from Carr and began building homes along Backlick Road. Then I-95 was built in 1949, followed by I-495, completed in 1964, and Springfield went from a few hundred residents to more than 85,000.