Historic week of openings for downtown Springfield culminate with Route 66 Festival
The second week of August 2015 is already proving to be a banner week for the economic revitalization of downtown Springfield.
With the grand opening celebration for the Heer’s building, another grand opening celebration on Thursday for two more historic downtown buildings, a plaque dedication Friday at the Woodruff Building (now Sky Eleven) to commemorate Nov. 11, 1926, as the day Route 66 was “born” in Springfield and the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival Aug. 14-16, downtown Springfield is buzzing with excitement and energy.
“This is an important chapter in downtown Springfield’s history,” says Downtown Springfield Association President Rusty Worley. “Springfield has really come together to try to make our downtown great again. Embracing our Route 66 history is an important part of spotlighting authentic places and experiences in Springfield.”
Worley referenced the City’s redevelopment plans for the 12 miles of Route 66 that run through Springfield; the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival now in its fifth year; and businesses with a Route 66 theme, like Mother Road Antiques and Uniques next to the Route 66 Roadside Park and a restaurant called Civil Kitchen and Tap Room opening in September in the former Trolley’s space.
“A lot of folks have worked tirelessly for years to get downtown to this point, and it’s something to celebrate,” Worley added.
Sitting right on Route 66, the crown jewel of Park Central Square, the Heer’s Department Store building, officially reopened as Heer’s Luxury Living with a ribbon-cutting celebration on Tuesday.
After sitting vacant for nearly 20 years and changing hands several times, Dalmark Development Group LLC, took ownership of the building in 2013 and announced plans for 80 units of luxury rental housing and 18,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground level. The apartments range from 620 square feet to 1,605 square feet, with leases starting at $690 per month.
A clubhouse located off the fourth floor, which flows on to the third-floor deck, includes a lounge and rooftop entertainment area.
The ribbon-cutting celebration included comments from numerous local and state officials on the importance of downtown revitalization and an additional announcement of a ground floor tenant: IntrinsiQ Specialty Solutions.
IntrinsiQ Specialty Solutions, part of AmerisourceBergen – ranked No. 16 on the Fortune 500 list – will be the first commercial tenant of the newly reopened Heer’s. IntrinsiQ will occupy the commercial space on the first floor of the building, expanding its local footprint by investing in new space and creating new jobs. With wages above county average, these high-tech jobs are the newest addition to a growing IT sector in the downtown area.
“Today, we celebrate what many thought was impossible – the rehabilitation and rebirth of the iconic Heer’s building,” explained Mary Lilly Smith, City of Springfield director of Planning & Development. “Heer’s is an iconic building for Springfield, and it’s certainly a milestone to have the building restored to its former glory.”
The total development costs for the project was approximately $15.8 million. The financing for the building’s rehabilitation was achieved with private equity, a small-business development loan from the City of Springfield and construction loans. The project also qualified for state and federal historic preservation tax incentives, as Heer’s was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
The Vecino Group, owner of four historic downtown properties, will host a grand opening ribbon-cutting celebration for Sky Eleven, the former Woodruff Building, and The Sterling 5-7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 13 at Sky Eleven’s location at 331 Park Central East.
Sky Eleven is a 90-unit, 153-bed premium student housing and urban living high-rise, which students rent by the bed. The facility offers a heated pool and cabana area, a game room and more.
The Sterling, a $3 million project for The Vecino Group, offers 30 micro-unit apartments with a “less is more” mantra aimed at young professionals and retirees. The Sterling offers designated areas on each floor for community-shared items, such as appliances and tools, books and periodicals. And the sharing doesn’t end with small items – there are community bikes and a community SmartCar.
The Vecino Group is also the developer of The U@Springfield (formerly the McDaniel Building) and The Frisco (formerly the Landmark Building). Both properties opened in 2014. Together, The U, Sky Eleven and The Sterling buildings are called Park East, the downtown community in which residents of any of the three buildings can share the amenities of the others.
In addition to the Heer’s and The Vecino Group’s projects, Springfield natives John and Billy McQueary last month reopened the 108-year-old former Vandivort Center at 305 E. Walnut in July as Hotel Vandivort, a 50-unit upscale boutique hotel. The hotel includes The Order, a 70-seat restaurant featuring local suppliers.
Over the last year, downtown Springfield saw more private commercial and multi-family residential activity than any other section of the city, according to Planning & Development Director Mary Lilly Smith.
“What this shows is a healthy reinvestment in the urban core of Springfield,” says Smith. “Every healthy community has a healthy downtown.”
The day after the grand opening for Sky Eleven and The Sterling, the City of Springfield will host a plaque dedication ceremony at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 14 at Sky Eleven to commemorate Nov. 11, 1926 as the day that “66” was confirmed as the name for the new Chicago to Los Angeles highway via telegram to John T. Woodruff’s office in what was then the Woodruff Building.
History Museum on the Square’s John Sellars and Route 66 Association of Missouri President Tommy Pike will be on-hand to speak about the historical significance of the building. Springfield history buff Kenny Knauer will attend the dedication in the likeness of John T. Woodruff.
The ribbon cuttings and plaque dedication for these three properties along Springfield’s stretch of Route 66 will kick off the three-day Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, now in its fifth year. Visit route66festivalsgf.com for a full lineup of the festival’s events.