Like garland and twinkle lights that show up right after Halloween, the would-be developer of a drive-thru coffee shop is back.
On a fourth effort to get a conditional use permit from the Springfield City Council, developer Royce Reding pushed aside the engineers and spoke to the elected officials himself on Nov. 14. The City Council will consider a vote on a bill that would grant the permit for Reding to operate a business with a drive-thru when it meets again Nov. 28.
Reding Management owns a total of 1.08 acres of land on the southeast corner of Sunshine and Jefferson. The property sits across Jefferson Avenue from Jefferson Avenue Baptist Church, and across Sunshine Street from Sunshine Elementary School. Reding aims to build what would be Springfield’s fourth 7 Brew Coffee drive-thru store there.
Standing before the City Council, Reding appealed to a group that had just voted to adopt Forward SGF, a 20-year comprehensive plan that emphasizes mixed use developments with commercial properties within walking distance of homes, along with a strong desire to create memorable experiences in all of Springfield’s neighborhoods.
“I don’t know why this project is, from my vantage point, one that has been such a sticking point,” Reding said. “It meets the comprehensive plan, and I think it’s going to be a hard decision for you, but I’m going to ask you to stick with the plan and look at the merits of the project.”
Third time before the council, more adjustments
The City Council voted to rezone the Sunshine and Jefferson property from residential to a limited business district earlier in 2022, but has twice voted against granting the conditional use permit necessary for a business to operate with drive-thru lanes and windows. Drive-thru service is a cornerstone of 7 Brew’s business model, along with upbeat music bumping through outdoor speakers and a cornucopia of flavor combinations. The drive-thrus include multiple lanes.
“That intersection sees 40,000 vehicles a day, so we’re talking about 1 percent usage,” Reding said. “The idea is that we can stack the traffic to make sure it never backflows onto Sunshine.”
Neighboring property owners brought up concerns with traffic jams at the Sunshine and Jefferson traffic light, 7 Brew customers cutting through residential streets, danger for pedestrians — especially children — people coming and going at all hours, and loud music as reasons they opposed the project. Reding talked about noise reduction measures on Nov. 14.
“When we get to the property line, the decibel [level] now is going to be less than what you actually have along the traffic from Sunshine, so in essence, there is going to be no noise from the speakers heard at the property line,” Reding said.
Developer says no drive-thru, no build
Reding said he eliminated the idea of developing the property in phases. The plan is now to build in one phase, creating driveways on Jefferson Avenue to the west and on Roanoke Avenue to the east.
“It’s important to know that this project is not only best for our community, but it’s best for this neighborhood, too,” Reding said. “We make Roanoke walkable, we add sidewalk there that is not there to make it accessible for pedestrians. We have additionally changed the site plan to make it bike-friendly. We’ve added a bike rack on the site.”
Reding’s property has two houses near Sunshine and Roanoke, which he intends to tear down.
“I purchased them in poor condition; I purchased them with the intent to redevelop,” Reding said. “It’s got to mathematically make sense, and this lot is not big enough to park traffic on to do maybe just a non-drive-thru site there, and that’s not what users want in a post pandemic.”
Springfield Senior Planner Daniel Neal explained the changes between the second and third proposals in a memo to the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission.
“The applicant added a pedestrian walkway and added outdoor seating to the proposed site plan,” Neal wrote.
The outdoor seating amounted to two picnic tables with an estimated capacity of eight seats. Neal wrote the proposal met the standards for granting a conditional use permit. He wrote that the lot is challenging to build on because it is relatively shallow.
Roanoke Avenue is narrow
Cody Hicks owns the property on Roanoke Avenue immediately southeast of the Reding Management property. His house sits on the inset piece of land that disrupts what would otherwise be a rectangle. Hicks said he doesn’t think all of the drivers from 7 Brew will exit onto Jefferson Avenue and go through the traffic signal at Sunshine Street. He expects them to cut down smaller streets.
“The entrance to the stoplight may fit four or five cars, bumper to bumper, so everything is going to come off on Roanoke,” Hicks said. “There’s barely enough room for two vehicles to pass each other on my street.”
Hicks told the City Council he has been at home from work for four weeks recovering from a surgical procedure, which has given him extra time to look out his front window and observe traffic, and to examine the neighborhood from his front porch.
“I’ve gotten to stare out my window a lot,” Hicks said. “I just don’t see how it’s going to work with that many cars, that many drive-thrus. I don’t see how a drive-thru, period, will work.”
Highlighting the tension
Springfield Council of Better Business director Jacob Ruder said the City Council had the opportunity to send a message that developers and neighborhood groups could work together to reach compromises.
“One thing we’re seeing in this community right now is a lot of tension between neighborhoods and developers, and we believe that it’s important that they work together, and in this case, we believe that they have with all the concessions that have been made,” Ruder said.
Ruder went through a list of changes to the 7 Brew site plan, including the relocation of dumpsters, adjustments to operating hours and efforts to reduce the amount of noise that would leave the property.
“At what point do we say, ‘Hey, let’s continue for both sides to compromise, not just one?’” Ruder said.
P&Z commissioners made third vote against 7 Brew
The Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission took up the latest version of the Sunshine and Jefferson Case on Oct. 6, and voted 5-1 to recommend denial of a conditional use permit. City staff members recommended approval.
Britton Jobe was the only commissioner to vote for the proposal that was presented and debated on Oct. 6. He voted to deny recommendation the first time, but voted for approval the second and third times.
“It’s coming. It’s coming; Sunshine is an extremely traveled street; it is next to one of the heaviest trafficked intersections in our city,” Jobe said. “To say that a drive-thru coffee establishment is inappropriate on Sunshine between Campbell Avenue and National, to me, is ridiculous.”
Commissioners Natalie Broekhoven, Bruce Colony, Carl Knuckles, Chris Lebeck and Eric Pauly all voted against the proposed conditional use permit.
“I still think that this is a bad idea,” Colony said.
The 7 Brew at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street in Springfield had 388 cars over a 17-hour span that the store underwent observation by traffic engineers.
7 Brew Coffee is based in Arkansas, and most of its 22 stores are owned by franchisees. According to its website, 7 Brew was “born from a desire to change drive-thru coffee into a fun, mind-blowing experience for everyone.” It serves coffee, sodas, smoothies, shakes and energy drinks.
Reding is one of the founders of Nevont, a human resources and benefits firm founded in Springfield in 2018.