More than a year after the smokestacks of the now-decommissioned James River Power Station were demolished with 300 pounds of explosives, the building, and the broader Lake Springfield site where it stands, await a future as a catalyst for “new economic development and recreational opportunities.”
The City of Springfield will hold a public meeting and an open house at the Lake Springfield Boathouse, as well as guided tours of what remains of the massive power plant, on Thursday, May 4.
“We are excited and proud to be part of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to work with our community leaders and agency partners to reimagine where the vision of Lake Springfield intersects with nature, recreation and economic development,” said Steve Prange, vice president of business development and strategy director for Crawford, Murphy and Tilly.
May 4 meeting latest in a community engagement series
The community first had the opportunity to provide input on the future of Lake Springfield in November, when the city kicked off the two-year, $1 million study and planning process, which Crawford, Murphy and Tilly was hired to oversee.
Additional meetings have been held just for people who live near Lake Springfield and the newly-formed Lake SGF Plan Community Advisory Team.
On May 4, Springfieldians will have the opportunity to hear from both the city, representatives from Crawford, Murphy and Tilly and various subcontractors on ideas for the future of the area, all while overlooking the lake itself and/or after touring the power plant.
The city and consultants continue to seek feedback from the general public, as well as business owners, developers, nonprofit organizations and schools.
Danny Perches, the assistant director of Economic Vitality with the City of Springfield, said there will be additional opportunities, some virtual, for people to engage in the planning process — similar to the public discussion in November 2022.
The plan, which is set to be completed by mid-2024, is among the many points of focus of the city’s broader comprehensive plan, Forward SGF, in which Lake Springfield was identified as a “redevelopment opportunity area.”
The Lake Springfield plan will include adaptive reuse of the power station and contain the following elements on the roughly 1,000 acres of publicly-owned land:
- Recreational expansion
- Economic development and workforce opportunities
- Transportation, access and wayfinding
- Land use plan; public facilities, cultural and environmental resources
- Hydrological studies
- Water quality and ecological preservation
- Land use recommendations
Plan must address challenges to Lake Springfield
While the consultants identified some general ways to potentially transform Lake Springfield, it won’t be as simple as plugging in a few good ideas that fit the landscape.
“We’re talking about 1,000 acres and so many different kinds of land types that might make sense in different zones,” Prange told the Springfield Daily Citizen.
Some of the biggest challenges are the power station and access to the lake itself. When visiting the Lake Springfield Boathouse, drivers have to take the two-lane Kissick Avenue, which is only accessible by driving on other two-lane roads before reaching access to larger thoroughfares like Republic Road, National Avenue and U.S. Highway 65.
Prange pointed out that people traveling downstream by boat on the James River are blocked from entering Lake Springfield due to the dam.
“We’re not going to add a lot of different destination spots to this area without also considering the transportation improvements that need to be made,” Perches said. “That’s certainly one of the opportunities that folks will have an option to give their feedback on is with Kissick Avenue being the primary corridor in and out of the Lake Springfield area…What are the viable transportation improvements that we need to make to make this a viable destination area?”
The public meeting May 4 will take place from 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the boathouse, which is located at 2312 Lake Springfield Park Road. Registration for tours of the James River Power Station is at capacity, even after the city added an a third tour due to the high demand.
“We want the community to really dream big about what they want to see in the next 10, 15, 20 years in this specific part of the town,” Perches said. “We just want it to be accessible, we want people to enjoy it, and we want it to become a destination for not just the city of Springfield for the region at large.”