Pickleball players may have a new place to swing their paddles, coffee enthusiasts are excited for their next morning jolt, and residents of Fassnight and West Central may have a new place to stop for cocktails.
The Springfield City Council voted 6-3 on Aug. 22 to rezone 1.47 acres of property on the southwest corner of Grand Street’s intersection with Grant Avenue. The property owners seek to have the land zoned for a planned unit development called the Loose Goose that could be a gathering place for Springfield residents with an array of interests.
Council members Abe McGull, Matt Simpson, Richard Ollis, Andrew Lear, Heather Hardinger and Mayor Ken McClure voted for the rezoning bill. Council members Craig Hosmer, Mike Schilling and Monica Horton cast the dissenting votes.
GDL Enterprises is the development group for the Loose Goose. Its investors include Andrew Doolittle, Willie Grega and Cameron LaBarr, Good Spirits and Company owner Josh Widner, who is involved in Cherry Picker Package and Fare, Best of Luck Beer Hall, Sweet Boys and Golden Girl Rum Club. and Michelle Billionis, a partner in the Coffee Ethic.
The developers want to build a 1,500-square foot building, along with a 280-square foot rental kiosk and bar, a parking lot with 33 spaces and six pickleball courts. The Loose Goose developers are not requesting any financial incentives from the city of Springfield to develop the property.
Gaps in the GAP plan
The Grant Avenue Parkway project is a plan to create an off-street pedestrian and bicycle pathway along Grant Avenue from Sunshine Street to College Street in downtown Springfield. The city of Springfield is required to kick in about $5 million to meet a 20-percent match requirement on a $20.9 million federal grant to fund construction of the Grant Avenue Parkway.
The goals are to establish the parkway as a place to visit, promote pedestrian and cyclist safety, create connections within and between neighborhoods, encourage diverse and mixed uses of land, beautify the area along the parkway and encourage people to invest in their community.
On March 11, 2021, the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission adopted the Grant Avenue Parkway Corridor plan, also known as the GAP Corridor plan.
“The GAP Corridor plan focuses on those areas adjacent to the Parkway from College to Catalpa Streets that are generally within 500 feet east and west of the Grant Avenue centerline, as well as Grand Street,” the introduction to the document reads.
City Manager Jason Gage told the council that there are elements of the Loose Goose that do not meet the letter of the vision for development along the parkway, but there is also some ambiguity in the vision documents.
Hosmer asked Springfield Assistant Planning Director Brendan Griesemer about the split recommendation on Aug. 22.
“Is that because it doesn’t meet the plan for the Grant Avenue Parkway?” Hosmer asked.
“That’s correct, it doesn’t meet the intent of the plan,” Griesemer said. “There’s three components: the mixed use piece, as well as the drive-thru and the package liquor.”
There are no residential units planned for the Loose Goose, which goes against the definition of “mixed use development” found within the Grant Avenue Parkway (GAP) development plan.
Pedestrians, driveways and parkway access
The Loose Goose site plan calls for outbound driveways on Grant Avenue and on Douglas Avenue. Walk-up windows for walkers and cyclists are also parts of the business model.
“If you walk up on your bike up from the parkway, which will be on the other side of Grant, you won’t interact with the driveway at all as a pedestrian,” Doolittle said. “If you’re a pedestrian, you can still be a pedestrian. People from out of town might not even know that it has a drive-thru component when they’re using the parkway.”
Ollis based his vote on the potential that he feels the Loose Goose has to become a gathering place for residents of the Fassnight and West Central neighborhoods.
“There will be lots of pedestrian activity here,” Ollis said. “I really think this is the anchor activity center that we need along Grant Avenue Parkway, and although it doesn’t meet the strict compliance of the plan, it certainly in spirit, I think, complies with the mixed use component of the plan.”
Split recommendations by city staff
Simpson debated the fact that city staffers in the Springfield Planning Department recommended denial of the rezoning application, while the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend approval.
“Staff, I think, rightly made recommendations based on that plan that was adopted, and then we have the ability as council to look at individual cases and make decisions,” Simpson said. “I think it is an important point that as we’re making decisions, if we make a case decision that it doesn’t alter the rest of the district and it doesn’t reshape the standards for the rest of the district.”
Gage said that regardless of the vote outcome, the City Council could revisit and change elements of the Grant Avenue Parkway plan if they aren’t satisfied with it.
“It may come back to, ‘Does the corridor plan hit your target, right?’ and for the most part, it may, or is there something that there is general council consensus on that you would say, ‘Let’s go back and revisit,’” Gage said.
“I think that the corridor plan does meet our targets, but I think that there’s also benefit in having these activity centers like we see at Cherry and Pickwick,” Simpson said.
Lear said he felt conflicted before the vote, given that the Grant Avenue Parkway is perhaps the biggest single project he has been part of in his time of the Springfield City Council, and because Lear thinks the project will rehabilitate an important transportation corridor.
“We have a lot at stake here with the GAP plan,” Lear said. “Grant Avenue was picked because of the fact that it needs serious rehab along it.”
The drive-thru was a sticking point for Lear, but it wasn’t sticky enough for him to vote against rezoning the Loose Goose property to clear the way for development.
“We as a city need to begin weaning ourselves off of that and working more toward multimodal and equity in terms of our transportation,” Lear said. “I wish that the developers would have found a way to leave that out, but it’s not my capital, I’m not risking my capital to do it. I believe that this corridor needs serious work, and the neighborhoods have stated that they want this, they need an activity center.”
Dissenters explain their ‘No’ votes
Horton explained her dissenting vote with a short look at the Grant Avenue Parkway plan, plus a look at transportation equity across Springfield.
“My knee jerk reaction was to go for the gusto with this proposed rezoning, but I’ve had some time to think more critically about what this rezoning and the subsequent development could mean for our city as we move forward with the previously adopted GAP plan, the comprehensive plan that we still have yet to approve, and the accessibility of our city’s physical environments for all Springfieldians,” Horton said.
Horton referred to the policy recommendations in the reliable transportation initiative within the Prosper Springfield project by the Springfield Equity and Prosperity Commission. With the drive-thru feature of the development in mind, Horton said she would not support the rezoning proposal.
The drive-thru package liquor service was the reason Schilling voted against the bill.
“I can’t support it,” Schilling said. “Basically, to me, the drive-thru aspect brings an element of what I consider a potential too-much-automotive invasion. A parkway, to me, has a sound of sort of a calming sort of a place, but with a drive-thru element, cars coming and going — we’ve got a lot of that in the city already.”
Before anyone plays pickleball, hits the drive-thru for a bottle of spirits or walks to a window for coffee, the Loose Goose development will still need to obtain building permits and licenses from the city of Springfield.