November 23, 2017
By Rusty Worley, Downtown Springfield Association executive director
It’s been a tumultuous year, but there is plenty to be thankful for in downtown Springfield this Thanksgiving season. Here are five that have risen to the top of our list:
With the widely recognized success of Hotel Vandivort, the hospitality industry within walking distance of downtown is experiencing a rejuvenation not seen since a bustling Route 66. O’Reilly Hospitality’s purchase of the former Great Southern Bank building on South Avenue for a boutique hotel in 2017 was another milestone. Stay tuned for more good news in the hospitality sector in the next few months.
The competition from online giants like Amazon has made it a challenging year for everyone in the retail sector. In spite of those circumstances, downtown Springfield has a strong core group of retailers—and more on the way. Locals need to continue to embrace these local entrepreneurs, and the Downtown Springfield Association will be working with its businesses to enhance shoppers’ experience in the coming year through community events, cross-promotions with restaurants, the Downtowner Loyalty Card and other initiatives.
Downtown is fortunate to be the region’s incubator for young professionals. Look no further than Brina Thomas at 5 Pound Apparel and Gabe Bloodworth at Springfield Hot Glass, John and Billy McQueary at Hotel Vandivort, Vance Hall at Druff’s, Anne and Clayton Baker at Tinga Tacos, Jeff Houghton and Sarah Jenkins at The Mystery Hour, Lillian Stone and Bethany Bell at DSA and the countless millennials in residence at their favorite coffee shop. The next generation of community leaders is already here and actively shaping their downtown.
The City of Springfield and Greene County settled the respective lawsuits against each other mid-year and then developed ballot language for allow the community to invest in public safety in November. The voters responded in impressive fashion by passing the City’s level property tax by 75 percent and the County’s new sales tax by 60 percent. Those investments in expanded jail capacity, new police officers and firefighters and capital equipment are monumental steps to addressing Springfield’s public safety issues.
Successes like those mentioned above don’t just happen. Encouraging companies to invest millions of dollars in old downtown buildings takes vision and economic development tools. Fostering a climate for entrepreneurs and young professionals to be heard and take a seat at the table is sowing seeds for the future. Mediating in good faith on complex and costly issues puts the community’s needs above the institution’s. Greg Burris, who recently announced his resignation as city manager, has done all these things and many more over his nine years as City Manager and two decades at Missouri State. Downtown Springfield is grateful for his passion to making the heart of Springfield vibrant and a point of pride for the entire region. Thank you, Greg, for your service!
Most importantly, we’re thankful for you: the Downtowners who support our community every day. Enjoy your turkey and stuffing this Thanksgiving weekend, and then (after your well-deserved nap) make time to support your favorite merchants and restaurants on Small Business Saturday!