MSU rethinking IDEA Commons projects for best use of downtown space

Local News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Certain aspects of a multi-year, multi-million dollar project to create a new professional gathering space in downtown Springfield have been put on hold as Missouri State University rethinks the best use of the property. 

The IDEA Commons project was first announced in 2017 with the construction and rehabilitation of new and old buildings near Boonville Avenue and East Phelps Street. 

Missouri State’s website describes it as a vision for an urban innovation park in downtown Springfield, as well as “a hub where people from all walks of life can live, shop, learn, create and work.”

The project was originally slated for three phases: 

  • Jordan Valley Innovation Center (JVIC) expansion
  • A 100,000 square-foot office building 
  • A 400-space parking garage 

While construction of the JVIC expansion began last year, the two other projects have now been put on hold due to the pandemic. 

“Obviously with COVID impacting the office environment and businesses working remote, it’s put a wrench into the timing of that development,” says Allen Kunkel, Associate Vice President of MSU Research and Economic Development. 

Kunkel says Missouri State is still exploring options including if an office building is still needed, what size it should be, as well as the addition of a parking garage. 

The JVIC expansion alone is expected to total $14.3 million dollars and add 30,000 square feet of working and learning space. 

Kunkel says despite setbacks on the second and third phase of the project, the site, which is currently a parking lot, will still be attractive for future development. 

“Taking these old buildings, giving them new life, but also creating an atmosphere

where we’re actually creating jobs for the community and providing opportunities for our

graduates,” Kunkel says. “And having that connected to downtown for a quality of place attraction, that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”

OzarksFirst spoke with one business owner across the street from the future IDEA Commons and how it might impact business. 

Ron Leverenz, owner of Doughboy Military Collectibles says he’s noticed progress made along Boonville in recent years. 

“Actually. I’ve seen it change a lot I’ve had the store for about 20 years now. Instead of dilapidated buildings now we have nice strong buildings and community downtown.”

Leverenz says it’s tough to know how his business would change with a multi-story office space right outside his shop’s front door, but with other upcoming City projects intended to drive traffic north of Park Central Square, he assumes more potential customers could soon be coming his way. 

“Usually when you go downtown. you stop right where the square is or you

make your way south on South Street,” Leverenz adds. 

“It’s nice that they are going to do that because that may bring more people down here. They are supposed to open up the Jordan Creek and build some greenways, so that should bring people down the hill.”

Missouri State University expects the JVIC expansion to be completed in April 2022. 

When finished, the IDEA Commons will sit at the end of the upcoming Grant Avenue Parkway project, spanning from downtown Springfield to Sunshine Street. 

More on the IDEA Commons project can be found here.

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