Illinois REALTORS® is one step closer to realizing an ambitious project which would transform a parking lot at the association’s Springfield headquarters into a plaza commemorating the state’s 200th birthday.
The association’s plan for the Bicentennial Plaza was approved by the Springfield Economic Development Commission on Tuesday. It calls for funding a portion of the $2.6 million project with $1 million from the city’s downtown tax increment financing district.
The funding plan now goes to the Springfield City Council for approval, likely in March.
If built, the plaza would be located on the north side of the association’s headquarters on South Fifth Street. The plans call for a tree-lined plaza that could be used for civic events, and potentially might tie into a broader plan to revitalize the Jackson Street corridor. A vacant bank branch building on the association’s property would be removed to make way for the project and the association would lose some of its parking places.
“Illinois REALTORS® has been a part of the downtown area on and off for decades,” said association President Doug Carpenter. “This project would complement the downtown area our association calls home, and it would help commemorate the state’s 200th birthday. It’s a positive development for Illinois REALTORS®, but the primary beneficiaries would be Springfield residents who will have a space that could be used for community events or to enhance tourism.”
Illinois REALTORS® recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, and has grown to represent more than 44,000 members engaged in all aspects of the real estate business. The association has been in its current location for 10 years.
Jackson Street extends from the Lincoln Home National Historic Site to the REALTORS® property between Fifth and Sixth streets. It then runs past the Executive Mansion to the grounds of the Illinois Capitol. Although nothing has been decided, one plan would be to redevelop the entire corridor, making Bicentennial Plaza a component of a broader revitalization effort to tie together the historic sites.
A former thee-story brick YWCA building adjacent to the association’s headquarters was razed this month, and city officials are considering how that lot and a neighboring parking lot will be used. The lot is across Jackson Street from the Executive Mansion, which is undergoing renovation.
Illinois REALTORS® has a Bicentennial Task Force that is working on readying the trade association for commemoration of the state’s 200th birthday. The plaza project would fit nicely with a theme of “REALTORS® Working with Heart in Every Community.”
“REALTORS® play a huge role in shaping the communities they live in, and this park would be an enduring monument to our mission of supporting and improving the places we all call home,” said Vicky Turner, a Dixon REALTOR® and the chair of the task force.
Illinois REALTORS® already has plans to engage many of its local associations in a campaign to adopt a historic property in recognition of the state’s milestone birthday. The campaign is still developing, but Turner said the local REALTOR® associations are encouraged to look at where they can make a difference, whether through donations of time, materials or money.