Springfield’s City Council Tuesday made changes to a plan meant to develop the city-owned lot downtown known as the Y-Block. In addition to the empty lot, the proposal now includes development for any area downtown where the University of Illinois Springfield or Southern Illinois University want to establish a campus.
Mayor Jim Langfelder said funding available from a statewide infrastructure plan presents a good opportunity to go bigger on a proposal.
“There is a unique opportunity for us to really put financial resources to the best use possible, to really make that wow factor, lift Springfield up as the capital city to that next level that everyone would like to see.”
Just how much the entire project could cost has not been publicly discussed. University leaders and the city would have to convince lawmakers and the governor that their final plan is worth state funding. The amended ordinance requests funding not just for the “North Mansion Block” but for the “UIS and SIU expansion in downtown Springfield” as well as the “completion of Capitol Avenue.”
Langfelder said it’s up to the universities to decide what they want to see downtown.
Two weeks ago, Langfelder filed the original ordinance to show UIS support in establishing a downtown campus, including Innovate Springfield, the university’s business incubator. The ordinance also proposed that part of the block should remain a green community space.
The block has stood empty since the former YWCA building was torn down in 2017.
Proposals have ranged from a full-block development of apartments, retail space and parking — to a movie theater and restaurants. During his term, former Gov. Bruce Rauner lobbied for an open space with a park, playground and amphitheater. Though that eventually fell through when he lost re-election.
Most recently, the south end of the block has hosted the Levitt AMP music series, which has its final concert this week. Those in favor of an activated space on the block, point to the series as an example of what could be done on the lot if long-term development occurs.
The council will vote on the resolution next week.