A shopping development in downtown Springfield has experienced some steps forward and back in recent years. When it was constructed, College Station was set to be a mall-type project generating economic benefits for the city.
Mike Stevens, the owner of Moxie Cinema, which is in College Station, said, “I love downtown, I love this spot in particular because we are a part of the College Station parking garage.”
Moxie is a small business offering a peek at the big screen. The storyline of College Station itself has twists and turns like a movie plot.
Stevens explained, “I think just in general downtown Springfield has some challenges and that’s just the reality unfortunately right now…emerging from the pandemic.”
The theater was supposed to have had a lot more neighbors. When College Station opened in 2007, it was predicted to be a catalyst for launching downtown to the next level. City leaders and developers envisioned national retailers and restaurants moving into spaces built below the parking deck.
Rusty Worley, Executive Director of Downtown Springfield Association,” said “The addition of 800 parking spaces for downtown that are free has been huge (between the College Station and Heer’s parking garages). He added, “That alone has been a great investment in the experience of downtown.”
Nowadays, many of the storefronts are still empty. One of them was home to a pizza parlor before it closed, and that space is also vacant. Some of the other retail spots are private offices for local agencies and nonprofits.
“The area has definitely unfolded differently than what we had originally planned,” Worley said. “Of course, the planning was done before the great recession and so some of the national tenants and some of the things originally looked at for that area have changed.”
While there is a lot of excitement with the new Blue Room Comedy Club location, the one big national tenant, Hollywood Theaters, recently closed. The venue was shuttered when its parent company, Regal Cinemas/Cineworld, declared bankruptcy. It was another bump in the road, creating more questions about the future.
Stevens explained, “It was a kick in the gut having a 14-movie screen [theater] around the corner. Most people would think competition but for us, it was great because you could see any movie that was playing in Springfield within a block.”
In recent months, Tillman Redevelopment stated there were proposals in the works for the Hollywood Theater property and plans would be released at some time in the future.
The city issued bonds to pay for the parking garage, and the retail space on the ground floor was sold to developer Tillman Redevelopment. Two separate one-cent sales taxes collected in the College Station area, one for a Community Improvement District and another for a Transportation Development District, go toward paying off the debt.
FOX49 has found that with few big retailers and restaurants moving in to make sales and collect associated sales taxes, revenue from the CID and TDD streams hasn’t been significant. In documents from the Missouri Department of Revenue, we found only about $20,000 to $30,000 per year are collected from those taxes. Most of the debt has been offset and retired from other city revenue sources.
Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement for the City of Springfield, explained those additional revenue streams include approximately $200,000 per year from the Department of revenue for excess sales tax receipts in the district; about $230,000 to $250,000 per year in parking payments from the developer and Regal. In addition, the city’s general fund subsidizes the remainder of the annual payments.
Scott added the annual debt service is $800,000 per year through the year 2027.
FOX49 found that the combination of funding sources has allowed the city to pay the parking garage debt down from the original $10 million in 2007, down to $3.84 million as of June 2022.
The city provided a statement to FOX49/KOLR10 stating, “College Station has been a significant part of the fabric of Springfield’s downtown and certainly been a catalyst for additional economic activity. Property owners could certainly speak more directly, but the pandemic did have a direct effect on certain industries, but overall, Springfield businesses have weathered fairly well. Overarching, the project also provided condominiums downtown and significant public parking. One of the more recent additions is the Blue Room Comedy Club. Springfield is fortunate to have a club of its caliber.
We would like to remind the community of the City’s many loan and support programs, particularly for small businesses. We are thrilled to share in the success of downtown Springfield.”
Business leaders say they believe there are signs of a turnaround for College Station. Two nearby projects are in the works that could add momentum, including the daylighting of Jordan Valley Creek, and the construction of Grant Avenue Parkway.
“I think there are a lot of good things that are there, he stated. “The first floor is as full as it has ever been and so there has been some momentum.
We reached out to the development company, Tillman Redevelopment, but did not hear back.
While progress down below has been slow, business leaders say what’s above- the parking deck- is serving its purpose.
Stevens said, “Outside of Springfield- if you are in a major metropolitan area free parking is pretty rare in a dense place like Springfield.”
Leaders hope all this parking comes in handy if a long-awaited boom at College Station finally comes to pass.
“A lot of big institutional players seem to be still investing in downtown which gives me a lot of hope,” Stevens said.
“You are a part of this current chapter in its history. This has unfolded over 200 years and within that 200 years there are going to be peaks and valleys, but this is this chapter, Worley said.
Worley stated two projects underway currently, the daylighting of Jordan Creek and construction of Grant Avenue Parkway, could have a positive impact on the College Station district.