A new west Springfield big box retailer is one step closer to becoming a reality after the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission approved the preliminary plat for the development at a May 11 meeting.
Even so, Thomas Walker, the developer behind the project, urged continued teamwork in order to push the complex development forward promptly to avoid “chaos.”
“Everybody’s going to need to pull together and we can get this thing done on time,” Walker told the commissioners. “I’m not trying to cry ‘poor,’ but it’s very, very important that this gets approved in a timely manner.”
Background of the project
A trio of applicants seeks to rezone approximately 22.4 acres of land generally located at 3444 W. Sunshine St., 1819 S. Moore Road, 1903 S. Farm Road 133 and 3503 W. Washita St. from a patchwork of zoning to a highway commercial district, which is the city’s most intense commercial district, and establishing a conditional overlay district (COD).
Based on the land’s location near Sunshine Street and West Bypass, city staff determined that highway commercial was an appropriate zoning for the property.
The developer’s intent is to construct a large retail center, dubbed the Sunshine Towne Center, which they indicated would include a big box store, although a specific company has not yet been named. There is already a Walmart across the road at 3520 W. Sunshine St.
Daily Citizen reporter Steve Pokin explored the question of whether or not that retailer could be Springfield’s second Target store, but was unable to find any answers due to non-disclosure agreements for involved parties in the project.
Some neighbors have voiced concerns over the development, which the city staff report reads, “emphasis should be placed on providing sufficient screening and landscape buffering between the future commercial development and the existing single-family neighborhood.”
The Sunshine Towne Center was originally presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on March 9, where it was met with support from commissioners, who recommended approval to the City Council with a 7-0 vote. However, the City Council remanded it back to the Commission, who once again approved the rezoning case on May 11 with altered language in the COD.
About 9.4 of the 22.4 acres in question remains in unincorporated Greene County. Therefore, the developer has also submitted applications for the city to annex those outstanding parcels of land, which Springfield Planning and Development Director Susan Istenes said is in the process of happening.
“It’s very difficult to try to comprehend the complexity of building a big box retail store,” Walker said.
Walker urges teamwork to avoid putting development in ‘jeopardy’
In addition to the rezoning application, the commission also approved the preliminary plat for the development, which was also met with unanimous approval from the commission.
Istenes said that the developer was hoping to have the rezoning application, the preliminary plat and the annexation application all reviewed and approved at the same time, which has not happened.
Although the commission doesn’t have the ability to final plat the property while some of it remains outside of city limits, the preliminary plat streamlines the process once annexation is approved by the City Council.
“I’ve been working on this for eighteen months to get it to this point,” Walker said. “It’s a very complex site to design and develop. I didn’t know that when I first showed up, but we’re about there.”
Walker stressed urgency in order to keep the project on track, due to the domino effect further delays could have on the development. He said the big box retailer that will be housed on the property is slated to have 70,000 stock keeping units, or SKUs, which are the scannable bar codes found on product labels.
“Those SKUs come from all over the world,” Walker said. “And when they start to come toward a store, if it’s not ready, or if it’s delayed, it creates chaos. Very few real estate projects have that type of intensity at delivery.”
For this development, missed deadlines now could contribute to missed deadlines later, which could lead to that “chaos” with the delivery of the SKUs, Walker said. He explained before he’s able to accept any deliveries, he needs to have the building pads in place. Due to the plasticity of the soil, placing the foundation for the building could be more difficult during wet conditions in the winter.
“I’m not worried about the money, but I’m worried about the time, and building through the winter,” Walker said. “When the soil gets wet, it’s very difficult to mechanically compact it, so therefore I can’t deliver the [SKU] pad. The longer this goes on, the more the project goes in jeopardy.
“All I’m asking is let’s work together as a team here,” Walker said. “We’re very close on what we’re trying to accomplish…The conditional nature of the approval, I think that will ultimately get us to where we need to be and if we can pull together and make sure that this becomes a reality then I’m pretty sure we have a brand new, beautiful shopping center in west Springfield.”
The Springfield City Council will weigh the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision and city staff’s recommendations for approval at its June 5 meeting.