SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – University Heights is known as one of several historic neighborhoods in town.

“The University Heights area was the next iteration of the Phelps Grove Park area,” said local historian John Sellars of the History Museum on the Square. “A very pastoral beautiful area with nice big houses. National Street was a little two-lane street that was completely encapsulated with beautiful trees.”

Neighbors have made it their mission to preserve the historic charm of the neighborhood. But developers have made plans for commercial development. For Springfield, the fight between commercial and residential dates back to the 1900s.

“There’s always been a continuing change of what buildings are purposed for and some of them are good or bad, some yet to be determined,” Sellars said. “When Route 66 came through in 1926 and that became a commercial highway. There had been built up residences by some of the most famous people in Springfield. And their houses are all long gone.”

Sellars said developers tend to add onto the outskirts of a historic neighborhood like University Heights. On 3 corners of Sunshine and National sit medical and commercial buildings.

“You’ve had mercy that’s been there since 1950, Sellars said. “You like the dentist’s office, and you have the new Cox Clinic that’s also being built across from Mercy.”

On one corner was a white house that developers tore down Tuesday.

“It feels like a loss of an icon,” Neighbor Donna Hemann said. “It feels like when a great actor or a great civically leader passes away. It truly was a welcoming, shining star for people who passed through from other cities and those of us who passed by on our way to work or home. It’s been a warm smile and a bright star for a long, long time. It’s the end of an era.”

Hemann and others have worked on getting signatures for a Legal Binding Protest Petition to stop the building of commercial development. The petition requires signatures from property owners within 185 feet of the planned development. Hemann said they have the required percentage of signatures.

“This is a labor of love,” Hemann said. “Not only are we still resolute, but now many of us are determined for there to be consequences for this that are perhaps a little bit different than they would have been.”

Developers say there are no immediate plans to demolish the other four houses they own. Hemann is hoping those plans never happen.

“I hope some measures that we’re taking legally and procedurally prevent this from going any further than it already has,” Hemann said. “This is already a tragedy.”

Developers will meet with the Planning & Zoning commission on November 17.