SBJ graphic by Amanda Miller

City Process Raises Bar on Design Quality (Sponsor Letter)

SBJ Economic Growth Survey: Shifting Behaviors

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At 21 years old, I was an architecture intern at Butler, Rosenbury & Partners Inc. I spent tireless nights in the office trying to make Tim Rosenbury happy, which as an aside is impossible, at least it seemed so for this freshly minted college graduate. After leaving to go to another firm and subsequently starting my own company, I grew to appreciate how differently we approach architecture.

Tim is now the director of quality of place initiatives for the city of Springfield – a position charged with “making Springfield a more desirable, competitive and economically vibrant place to live,” according to the city.

I applaud the city’s forethought to recognize not only the importance of architecture and design in achieving those goals but also their selection of Tim to lead the effort. He has a gift for bringing a social scale to a development, making it relate to the people and its surroundings.

Months before Tim entered the scene, Mitch Jenkins of Elevation Development started seeking zoning changes for a project – The Treadway – in Galloway Village. We are the architects for the project. If you’ve been following the news coverage, it’s easy to say the changes the redevelopment would bring were not embraced by all neighbors.

The city rightly called a moratorium on rezoning and new development so they could seek the input of the Galloway Village residents. Of course, it can be painful for a developer to experience any delays; but if the process is done well, the final project will be better for the neighborhood, developer and city at large.

Through the process, the city identified two key priorities for the area:

1. Public safety for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. The Galloway Creek Greenway attracts a variety of walkers, runners and cyclists.

2. Environmental protection. It is a mature neighborhood with lush tree canopies, rocky sloped topography and a natural creek that make it very unique within the city.

With the help of the city’s policy documents that help guide design criteria and Tim, The Treadway project is better than first conceptualized. It better fits the vernacular of the village atmosphere along Lone Pine Avenue with a scaled down scope, heavy emphasis on tree preservation and new plantings, and preservation and rehabilitation of four historic buildings.

Last year at one of Springfield Business Journal’s Economic Growth Survey forums, I challenged the city to require more of developers through the application and review process, going beyond a 2D building outline. I believe this project is a perfect example of how a development and community can be improved for aesthetic and practicality purposes through the process of public discourse.

The process did not calm all neighborhood opposition, nor did I really anticipate that to be the outcome. However, through this I have come to embrace that we should not run from it, but rather learn from it.

Springfield is a vibrant, growing community that needs to continue fostering real estate development to help attract and retain the people and companies that will help us continue our growth trend. The amount of undeveloped land is very limited within the city limits, so redevelopment in existing neighborhoods is inevitable. As an architect, charged with managing the cost, scope and quality of my clients’ projects, I am thankful to the city of Springfield’s dedication to helping bridge the needs of neighborhoods, developers and how our future residents want to live, work and play.