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The Future Of Downtown Springfield Inc. In Jeopardy

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flickr/Katherine Johnson
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Without some help, Downtown Springfield Incorporated could cease to exist in just over a month.  The organization that helps put on events like the downtown farmer's market, blue and bar-b-q and serves as an umbrella group for various businesses is on the ropes financially. 

Victoria Ringer, Executive Director, says a 2012 Taste of Downtown event suffered from extreme heat, which kept patrons away.  After making up part of that loss, this year's outdoor blues show also lost money because of heat.

"I''ve always said we are just one rain date away from bankruptcy at all times.  60 percent of our revenue has been tied up in weather dependent events," she added.

Ringer says it shows the need for the City of Springfield to chip in, as many other cities do to help out Main Street organizations.  Springfield did that years ago. She has met with Mayor Mike Houston about getting assistance with sanitation, including trash removal.

"We have enough operating expenses in our bank account now to get us through to the end of October," she said. 

Fundraising is underway, which she says has brought in about $20,000 in recent weeks.  An event is planned Thursday, September 18 to help.

"If your downtown isn't vital, your city isn't vital," Ringer said.  "Your downtown is very indicative of what you think of your city as a whole."

Ringer says if DSI is able to keep operating, there will have to be changes.  Among them, retooling events to make them less reliant on the weather.

'We're going to start listening to our members and the community and say 'What do you want?"

Ringer points out an estimated 2,300 state government jobs have been taken out of the downtown area since 2003.  That's led some businesses to close their doors.  Springfield has responded by forming a task force to look at the future of the downtown, known as SDAT.

Despite the obstacles, Ringer says the money crunch could wind up being a positive.

"We will go into 2015 with a kick start and a new attitude.  It's really given us an opportunity to educate people about what we do, how we do it and why we do it."

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