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Downtown Springfield, MO, a follow-up visit & rehab update

April 20, 2008 Steve Patterson, Travel 14 Comments

Not even being a patient in a rehab hospital will prevent me from getting out and about. This past weekend my two older nieces and their mom came up from Oklahoma City to visit me. On Saturday they indulged me and we headed eastbound on I-44 to Springfield, MO. My last post on Springfield was nearly three years ago — from when I was there for a class to get certified as a bicycle safety instructor.

Our first stop was to satisfy my nieces’ husbands — we stopped at a Brown Derby Liquor store to get some He’Brew beer so they could take it back to them. It was here that I saw something a bit odd.

A bike rack at a liquor store.

Personally I think we need to have bike parking everywhere, including liquor stores. Such parking could serve employees as well as customers. However the way this rack is mounted up on that curb I think it reduces some of the utility — perhaps it works ok in practice.

Our real destination was downtown and the Park Central Square (see map).

According to When Missouri Took The Trolley by Andrew Young, Springfield’s first horse drawn trolley line originated in the Square, opening on April 15, 1881. In short order additional lines would open— most converging on the square but heading different directions. Eventually electric lines replaced horses for powering the vehicles. St. Louis investors were among some of the early backers of these lines.

St Louis based developer Kevin McGowan and his company Blue Urban have plans to convert the old Heer’s Department store (above) into lofts. Several other smaller buildings on the square have already been converted and at sidewalk level are a couple of coffee houses. A hip new public library branch is open in one of the storefront spaces.

Around a portion of the square remains an earlier attempt to revitalize the area — a concrete canopy that once encircled the square. Facades of once beautiful buildings were blocked by this attempt to give the area a uniform open air mall look. Thankfully this awning has been removed from the other three corners.

The Square’s center is still a bit on the dated side. It was a nice day while we were there but we saw few people out.

Despite the dated appearance we ventured into the center and took time to pose for a picture — On my left is Patty and on my right is Shelley — their mom, my oldest brothers first wife, Sam, took the picture.

Well, since I am sharing personal family photos, above is me & Sam on the square. All three are Oklahoma State fans so I wore my Oklahoma University shirt to get a rise out of them — mission accomplished.

We had lunch at a cute Italian deli, St Michaels bar & grille. We didn’t have to worry about cigarette smoke since Springfield banned smoking a number of years ago — somehow the restaurants managed to stay in business. Imagine that? I guess people do go to restaurants to eat and not to smoke.

Just South of the square is one of Springfield’s more tragic buildings . I’m guessing this is actually an old building that got a horrible new skin a few decades ago. Whenever it was done, they shouldn’t have.

When I was here in 2005 the parking arrangement on South Ave was different than it is now. In 2005 the left side of the street above had angeled parking but now it is basic parallel. All parking downtown is free, a mistake in my book.

At the end of a side street, not far from the square, is a large parking garage. It seems that they left their old downtown intact but chipped away at the edges. Although Springfield is the county seat I didn’t spot the courthouse or the city hall.

After we had toured downtown Springfield it was time to head back to the hospital. Yes, that is me getting into Sam’s big gas-sucking SUV. As my right side remains strong, I was able to pull myself into the vehicle along with a little push from Patty.

That evening we went to dinner here in Mt Vernon and we decided to leave the wheelchair in the vehicle — my physical therapist had given me the OK to walk out in public as long as one of my relatives “guarded” me against falling (holding onto a gait belt around my upper torso). It felt good to walk into into a restaurant rather than being wheeled in.


Currently there are "14 comments" on this Article:

  1. john says:

    LAW initiatives just around the corner? With the right LAW (Lawyer. ADA, Wheelchair) and a little attitude, progress is around the bend. Good to see you up, around and making progress.

  2. john says:

    By the way, bike parking in Japan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wE4fvwTBtno&eurl=http://www.bikingbis.com/blog/_archives/2008/4/20/3650092.html

    Simply swipe your card through the reader and for less than $1/day for storage/security, your bike is retrieved in 22 seconds. We are SO far behind…

  3. Jim Zavist says:

    Bike rack at liquor store – it’s just what you need after that DUI conviction and you don’t have a driver’s license anymore.
    Free downtown parking – it’s only a problem if there isn’t enough/there isn’t any turnover in the available spaces. One big challenge for D/T STL are the parking meters (a necessary evil) – too many people chafe at the thought of feeding the meter (or worse, paying for a parking ticket) and default to suburban shopping areas with their “free” parking lots. Springfield is probably small enough that free parallel parking works just fine and doesn’t scare people awy from their downtown.
    Canopies – gotta go!
    The square – historically, this is the location for the courthouse – perhaps it burned down sometime in the middle of last century and was replaced with something more “user friendly” with a lot more parking?

  4. Jim Zavist says:

    “The first courthouse, which stood in the center of Springfield’s public square, began in 1837 when plans were approved by the court. It was a two-story, brick and stone building. An appropriation of $3,250 was allotted for construction. This building burned in 1861. Fortunately, most county records had been moved to the new courthouse that was nearing completion. The 1858 courthouse started when a bid of $36,000 by Josiah Leedy was approved. This 3-story building, which stood on the northwest corner of the public square, served as Greene County’s courthouse until government moved into the current “Old Courthouse” in 1912. This courthouse cost $200,000.” http://www.greenecountymo.org/web/About/

  5. Ian Scott says:

    It looks like things have improved slightly since I was last in Springfield a year and a half ago. I was there in the middle of the week and the area around the Square had an unsettling ghost town-like feel to it. The whole area felt like it went into cryogenic storage in the late 60s; I suppose that’s when the last major work happened in the area. I actually quite like the “tragic” building. In a few more decades I hope buildings like that become more appreciated. All in all I found downtown Springfield quite fascinating and an area with a lot of promise, especially since I bet a lot of that real estate could be had for a song.

  6. Eric Rogers says:

    Springfield is doing a great job with downtown redevelopment. Many of the old buildings are quickly filling up with residences, shops, bars, restaurants, etc. It gets packed with people and street life on the weekend nights.

    And the bike parking is city-wide. There is a city law that requires all new businesses to install bike racks. We are getting a similar law here in KC.

  7. SMSPlanstu says:

    I just visited the new library on the Square last week and it was so neat, much more trendy and hip than any other public library. It felt like a really fashionable coffee house.

    That parking garage has first floor retail and sits south of a large new development called College Station which will have more first floor retail and a cinema. other changes in Springfield since you were here is the large building at Jefferson and Pershing which is now retail and lofts (historic rehab), rehabbed apartment buildings on Jefferson across from Lincoln Park and others on Elm and Walnut.

    New policies:
    City Utilities is offering $5,000 to employees to relocate to central springfield (Grand on south, Kearney on North, Kansas on west,and National on north) and up to $20,000 for rehab.

  8. Downtown Springfield has been through so many “rehabs” and “upgrades” since the mid-1970s, so many flip-flops between “pedestrian only” and “automobiles allowed,” that it’s a wonder the old lady isn’t horribly schizophrenic. And with John Q. Hammonds Missouri State University rapidly encroaching on it…

  9. Andrew says:

    Dear Penny,
    I’m so sorry I haven’t contacted you since your recovery began. Shameful, and no excuses.
    I’m so happy to see you’re “back in the saddle” and doing what you love. I reviewed your entries for March and April and ran across I actually knew a little about. I’ve been doing some temp work for Cordish Co in KC, who is managing the development of Ballpark Village. I’ve heard (as I’m not privy) that there are considerable issues negotiating with the city. No surprise there! If I hear anything further, you’ll be the first to know.
    Thinking about you often, and wish for continued recovery.

  10. Despite being in the wheelchair, you are looking good Steve. Hope the recovery is progressing well!

  11. LisaS says:

    keep up the great progress, Steve!
    It’s just amazing to me how far the rehab process for stroke/head injury victims has come in the last ~20 years ….

  12. Expat says:

    Steve, It is good to see you out and about. You look great. Downtown Springfield and many of its neighborhoods have so much potential. They seem to be making positives moves. By the way, Mount Vernon is a sweet little village with a courthouse on the square, with a nice little diner where the old men hang out and solve the world’s problems (and chain smoke). The town seems to be surrounded by big horsey farms with lots of beautiful white fences. I have always been amused that Mt. Vernon lies outside of Springfield. And the town of Chesapeake, too. Makes me think some Virginians settled that area. Take care.

  13. Ozark_MTN says:

    The reason commercial development doesn’t work in Springfield might be because of the property tax increases. You can view an interactive map of changes in Springfield taxes by individual properties at this link: http://www.springpatch.net/stories.htm

    Decide for yourself what the issue is.

  14. Dionna says:

    Steve- you look great! Fun to see your cousins, too…..they are totally sweet gals- darn funny, too!
    Can’t wait to see you again when you return.


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