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With the ongoing dispute over the northwest corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, Springfield city planners want to “keep the bigger picture in mind” with a Sunshine Street corridor study.

On July 8, the Springfield City Council considered a package of American Rescue Plan Act funds totaling $611,819, including $100,000 for corridor and neighborhood planning – specifically, a corridor study for a section of Sunshine Street.

The City Council’s ARPA Review Committee recommended reallocating the money after the city funded a citywide housing study with non-ARPA funds and retained $195,481 from unspent reserves.

The City Council will vote on the appropriations on July 22. The package includes funding for consolidated housing planning, the Commercial Street Community Improvement District and Forvis Mazars compliance services, among others.

Part of the 2.6-acre property at the intersection of East Sunshine Street and South National Avenue is jammed at the intersection during weekday morning traffic. A request to rezone the property from residential to general retail has drawn strong opposition and a lawsuit from residents. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Although the corner of National and Sunshine is not the sole focus of the study, it would be included in the section of road studied. Depending on how far the city government can stretch funds, the study could include the Sunshine section from Glenstone Avenue to Campbell Avenue or from Glenstone to the Kansas Expressway.

University Heights residents have spoken out strongly against rezoning 2.6 acres at the corner of National and Sunshine for commercial use, although it is still unclear what developer Be Kind & Merciful plans to build there.

In June, Greene County District Court Judge Derek Ankrom ruled in favor of BK&M in a lawsuit filed in December 2022 by residents of the University Heights neighborhood. The plaintiffs and the project developer have indicated they intend to continue the litigation.

The proposed study comes more than a year and a half after the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that City Council study and design a corridor plan for two key stretches of Sunshine and National, and more than a year after City Council narrowly rejected a moratorium on development on those same stretches of road until a corridor study could be completed.

Steve Childers, Springfield’s director of planning and development, estimated the corridor study would be completed by the end of 2025.

Traffic moves along East Sunshine Street between National Avenue and Glenstone Avenue, passing a mix of commercial and retail businesses, many of which are vacant or dilapidated. (Photo by Jym Wilson)

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He is a graduate of MSU with a Bachelor of Science in journalism and a minor in political science. Reach him at [email protected] or (417) 837-3663. More from Jack McGee