A plan will be created for redevelopment of the Lake Springfield area following removal of the former City Utilities power plant, due in large part to an $800,000 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA).
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo announced the grant Feb. 10. The grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan and EDA’s $300 million Coal Communities Commitment, and is an 80-20 match to complete. That means Springfield will have to come up with $200,000 to complete the grant.
The grant will be used so that Springfield may develop a master plan for the area surrounding the former City Utilities coal-fired power plant at Lake Springfield.
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure, a former associate general manager of Springfield City Utilities, has had the future of the power plant site on his mind for several months.
“We had part of our community leadership visit in the fall, we went out to the James River plant and toured it,” McClure said. “It’s all empty now. Those stacks are going to be imploded, but what are we going to do with it? It’s such a valuable area.”
The local match will be $60,000 from City Utilities, $40,000 from the Springfield Environmental Services Department and a $100,000 contribution from the nonprofit Hatch Foundation.
“We see this feasibility study as the beginning of an exciting new initiative, with great potential to increase our community’s engagement with the inherent attributes of the Ozarks,” said Erin Danastasio, executive director of the Hatch Foundation. “We believe this can lead to a project to directly enhance our quality of life through interaction with the outdoors, and are thankful for the opportunity to be a partner.”
A study will determine the feasibility of different development projects and future uses, ultimately helping Springfield leaders to decide what to do with the property once the power plant demolition is finished.
“This project is part of EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment and will provide support as the local economy transitions from the coal industry to new fields,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo. “This project will ultimately lead to the creation of a resilient economy that will support the community long into the future by bringing in business and creating good-paying jobs for Missourians.”
The Southwest Missouri Council of Governments (SMCOG) helped to secure the grant. EDA funds SMCOG, “to bring together the public and private sectors to create an economic development roadmap to strengthen the regional economy, support private capital investment and create jobs,” according to a statement issued Feb. 10.
“We are thrilled to receive this funding for what will surely become a transformative project in our community. The area has a lot of potential for new amenities for future generations, leveraging the beautiful asset of Lake Springfield and its surrounding nature,” Springfield City Manager Jason Gage said.
The U.S. EDA’s Coal Communities Commitment allocates $300 million of EDA’s $3 billion American Rescue Plan appropriation to support coal communities as they recover from the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help them create new jobs and opportunities, including through the creation or expansion of a new industry sector.
Specifically, EDA has dedicated $100 million of its Build Back Better Regional Challenge funds and $200 million of its Economic Adjustment Assistance funds to directly support coal communities.
The James River Power Station was shut down in 2018. The power plant started generating electricity with five turbine units in 1957. The plant’s boilers used a mixture of coal and natural gas. Three of the units went offline in 2010. The cooling towers are among the last structures on the property scheduled for demolition.
Some parts of the power plant are suitable for future use, such as the office space, electrical substation equipment, and two natural gas combustion turbines will remain on site, according to a City Utilities statement.