About 60 acres at Sunshine and West Bypass will become a commercial development. (Photo: City of Springfield)

OPINION |

Answer Man: What development is going in at West Sunshine and West Bypass? — Jackie Rehwald, of Battlefield

Last week I went out to the remnants of a homeless encampment near the intersection of West Sunshine Street and West Bypass. I was with fellow reporter Jackie Rehwald.

One man was still at the site; he was trying his best to make plans to leave with his meager belongings.

Part of the vacant property at West Sunshine and West Bypass had become an encampment for people without shelter. (Photo by Steve Pokin)

Several months earlier, back on a cold January night, I visited this same area under the light of a full moon with the Rev. Christie Love, pastor of The Connecting Grounds church. Love leads her church’s efforts to house and feed the unsheltered.

In January, there were more trees and more people living in the woods.

Today, the ground is being cleared and worked to make way for development.

Commercial development in the works

This is an official Answer Man column because Jackie Rehwald, of Battlefield, asked me, the Answer Man: What’s going in there?

It will be more commercial development, similar to what’s already there, says Tom Rankin, who owns Rankin Development LLC.

Prior to last week, the most recent time I had talked to Rankin was in October 2020 when I was trying to get him — or anybody! — to confirm what many people seemed to know, but Amazon would not officially declare: that Amazon had committed to building a huge distribution warehouse in Republic.

Rankin’s company was one of the co-developers.

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“The line I have to give is that we are pursuing a project for a client that wants to remain confidential,” he told me at the time. I was at the News-Leader then.

I subsequently filed a Sunshine request with the city, and the results revealed that Amazon had required its local partners not to reveal it was coming to town unless, of course, someone filed a Sunshine request.

In the beginning: a Walmart Supercenter

Rankin’s current project at West Sunshine and West Bypass is called Springfield Plaza Phase 4.

The history of that intersection, at least in terms of development, Rankin tells me, starts with the Walmart Supercenter. It opened in 2001. Rankin was not associated with the Walmart being built.

But his company bought about 100 acres adjoining the Walmart site, and right after he did, the market crashed like an anvil down a well.

“Everything is timing,” he says, and the timing at that time was not good.

It took a while, but prior phases of Springfield Plaza came to fruition.

Michael’s is coming to that intersection

Rankin’s company lured companies such as Burlington Coat Factory, Petco, Ross Dress for Less, Central Bank, Taco Bell, Plaza Tire Service and, more recently, Whataburger at 3880 W. Sunshine.

He tells me Michael’s Arts and Crafts recently committed to locating in the development. Its building will be about 15,000 square feet.

As of now, the latest phase — where the trees have been cut and ground is being prepared — covers 60 acres divided into 11 lots.

None of the lots has been sold yet, Rankin says.

New traffic light to extend West Seminole

A big part of the development will be a new traffic light at West Seminole Street, which currently does not quite get to West Bypass.

West Seminole will be extended across West Bypass and into the commercial development. A traffic light will be installed.

This is Answer Man Column No. 21.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin