There’s a new push by leaders in Springfield to revamp historic, yet rundown neighborhoods

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The initiative is called Restore SGF. It aims to encourage reinvestment in Springfield’s Heritage Neighborhoods.

Heritage neighborhoods are mainly in the center and northern parts of the city.

City Council heard from housing, banking and real estate leaders today to see how they can incentivize individuals and developers buy, rehab and rebuild vacant and rundown houses without driving home prices up or driving out those who already live there.

City leaders say by restoring old homes, tearing down others and building new ones, neighborhoods could welcome residents from across the socio-economic scale.

Debbie Hart, with Housing Plus, gave specific examples of other cities in the U.S. who have been successful in implementing similar initiatives.

She used Joplin, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and Nashville, Tennessee, as examples.

Hart says one way to gain the developer’s interest in large-scale projects would be to re-divide lots to allow for new construction.

But what’s stopping Springfield from doing it too?

Vacant Homes and Nuisance Properties:

Phyllis Ferguson, Zone 1 Councilwoman, says vacant homes and nuisance properties are a big issue but are also opportunities for redevelopment.

Hart says restoring and rebuilding on vacant properties would be a great place to start. However, she says those first projects would likely need to be done by individuals, not developers.

Once a handful of houses in a neighborhood are improved, it gives developers more reason to invest in large-scale projects.

That’s why local banks say they are ready and willing to work with individuals on financing and loan options.

Rusty Worley, with the Downtown Springfield Association, says there’s already a number of programs for rehabilitation projects and low-income housing.

One of Restore SGF’s goals is to put more effort into promoting and educating residents about financing opportunities.

Crime:

Council members also agreed that potential buyers and builders might be discouraged from investing in Heritage neighborhoods due to high crime rates or the perceived notion that these areas aren’t safe for families and children.

Councilman Abe McGull brought up one idea: Creating incentives for first responders or law enforcement officers to rent or buy homes in rundown neighborhoods.

Rusty Worley says another goal of the Restore SGF initiative is to help connect neighbors through social media, as well as encourage residents to take charge of their neighborhoods when it comes to communicating about crime.

Real Estate:

The housing market in Springfield is hot right now. Jeff Kester, with the Greater Springfield Board of Realtors, says many homes are selling within just a few hours.

But Councilwoman Phyllis Ferguson says she doesn’t see that same excitement in Zone 1. She says she believes some real estate agents may discourage potential buyers from even considering homes in older, more deteriorated neighborhoods.

Kester told City Council members realtors don’t likely discourage potential homeowners from buying in one area more than another, but he and members agreed – re-educating licensed agents couldn’t hurt.

How do we make it happen?

Rusty Worley wrapped up the discussion by laying out proposed changes and next steps:

  • Updating zoning and rehab codes to make it easier for buyers and developers to invest in projects.
  • Encourage banks to work together to create more opportunities for financing and loans.
  • Promote existing financial programs.
  • Create a plan to deal with chronic nuisance properties and vacant homes.
  • Search for potential developers interested in large-scale projects.
  • The Restore SGF kicks off with an event at 6 p.m. on November 17th at The Fairbanks located at 1126 N. Broadway in Springfield.

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