Category Archives: Local Government

Springfield Illinois Local Government News.

Realtors headquarters key piece of Jackson Street corridor plan

A major piece of the proposed Jackson Street historic corridor landed with the opening in 2007 of the Illinois Association of Realtors state headquarters on a former parking lot at Fifth and Jackson streets in Springfield.

The newly named Illinois Realtors is ready for the next step, CEO Gary Clayton, said Monday. But he said the decades-old vision of a pedestrian way between the Abraham Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Capitol Complex will take support from the city and the community.

“We are committed to move on Jackson Street, but we need others to be with us,” Clayton said after a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the association.

Clayton said he would like to see the Jackson Street corridor become a project for the 2018 bicentennial of Illinois statehood. He noted that there have been numerous conversations with city planners on the impending development of the YWCA block across the Fifth and Jackson intersection from the Realtors headquarters. The Realtors also share the 500 block of South Fifth Street with the Executive Mansion.

Since the 2007 opening of the state headquarters, said Clayton, the association has acquired property between Fifth and Sixth streets that could become part of the Jackson Street connection.

“I hope it’s an opportunity to make this block and the Mansion an additional destination,” said Clayton. “We think it would be great for the bicentennial. We just need everybody to be on the same page.”

The city is scheduled to receive developer proposals later this month for the YWCA block and former YWCA building, including the possibility of a residential-retail mix on the block bounded by Jackson, Fifth and Fourth streets, and Capitol Avenue.

“The YWCA is going to be a key piece to it,” said Mayor Jim Langfelder, who also addressed the Realtors’ 100th anniversary ceremony. “Whoever the developer is, that’s where a lot of the focus is going to be, the impact on Jackson Street.

“We want to see the Jackson Street corridor happen, so it’s a matter of what they (developers) come up with,” said Langfelder.

A 2014 study of the Jackson Street corridor by architectural firm Massie Massie and Associates of Springfield envisioned replacing the current hodgepodge of disconnected parking lots with a pedestrian-friendly promenade between the Lincoln Home site and the Capitol, including benches, period lighting, wayfinding signs, drainage improvements and an area that could host outdoor events.

The report also pointed out that one of the earliest studies of Jackson Street was by a group of University of Illinois design students in 1961.

“There are bits and pieces of it there,” said Kent Massie, principal and senior landscape architect at Massie Massie. “It’s also included in the city request for proposals for the YWCA block. And there’s also the Third Street rail question.”

Page 2 of 2 – Jackson Street crosses the Union Pacific rail corridor at Third Street, which is scheduled for series of upgrades, including crossing closings, as part of high-speed rail construction between St. Louis and Chicago.

— Contact Tim Landis: tim.landis@sj-r.com, 788-1536, twitter.com/timlandisSJR.

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Sangamon County circuit clerk offering web chat

Questions about services offered by the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk’s Office can now be answered via live video chat.

Circuit Clerk Paul Palazzolo said that people can use the new service, Circuit Clerk Live Chat, to get information on upcoming court appearances, to get digital copies of documents or to find out how to pay a fine online.

“Live chat is our way of helping to be more efficient and streamlined in how we communicate with the public,” Palazzolo said Monday in unveiling the service. “This is a very important advancement for how we can deliver items, how we can answer questions, and how we can interact with folks who need information from the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk’s Office.”

Circuit Clerk Live Chat has been up and running for five weeks. It hadn’t been promoted previously in order to give the staff a chance to get up to speed, Palazzolo said, but it has already proved to be popular.

“Without an official announcement, we are having 50 to 60 people use the feature every day,” he said. “We hope that will explode exponentially now that we are announcing it. We’ve been working and prepping, and now we’re ready to go big time.”

Two current employees have been assigned to live chat, Palazzolo said. Each can handle about six chats simultaneously, and other employees have been trained so they can help if needed.

Palazzolo said the new system is more efficient for the public and the circuit clerk’s office. People using live chat can get a transcript of the conversation, which eliminates the need to take notes. Staff can also send people PDFs of documents or entire court files within the video chat.

Under the old system, people who want a copy of a court file have to go to the office, request the file and then wait while a staff member makes a copy. There is a fee for paper copies.

Ryan Vaughn, traffic division manager for the circuit clerk, said the ability to send people PDFs of documents has been popular.

“We get a lot of requests from people who are out of town,” Vaughn said. “So far, the response to this particular portion has been enormously positive. People can’t believe that we can place (the document) right there for them.”

Live chat is available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. After hours, people can still use live chat, which will leave a message. Their questions will be addressed at the beginning of the following business day.

People also can still call the circuit clerk’s office at 753-6674 with questions.

Page 2 of 2 – The cost for the new system is $2,500 annually. Palazzolo said he expects that cost to be more than covered through increased efficiencies.

For more information on live chat or other Sangamon County circuit clerk services, go to sangamoncountycircuitclerk.org, or download the office’s app.

–Contact John Reynolds: john.reynolds@sj-r.com, 788-1524, twitter.com/JohnReynoldsSJR.

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Neighbors question wisdom of homeless shelter at Gold’s Gym site

Frankie Brooks can see the Gold’s Gym property from her backyard, and it concerned her to learn last week of the Salvation Army’s plans to move into the shuttered business.

Brooks learned about the plans to move the Salvation Army’s operations, which includes a homeless shelter, from a neighbor, who heard about it through news reports, she said.

“Why haven’t we been notified?” Brooks said Monday. “Something should have gone around.”

Brooks questioned whether an area with single-family homes was the best place for a homeless shelter.

“The biggest concern is them camping out in the park behind us,” Brooks said.

Ward 2 Ald. Herman Senor, who represents the neighborhood, has a number of questions about the planned relocation, and also said the Salvation Army “may not be a good mix for the park there in close proximity.”

“That park is used quite a bit by young kids… That creates a concern,” Senor said.

Springfield officials approached Salvation Army Maj. Steve Woodard earlier this year about moving from North Ninth Street, where work on its new headquarters had begun, citing proximity to the 10th Street railroad tracks and parking issues.

Woodard and Mayor Jim Langfelder on Friday announced at a city hall news conference that the project, where about $500,000 worth of work had already been completed, would move about a half a mile to the east, to the former Gold’s Gym, 1600 Clear Lake Ave.

The North Ninth Street building is along the 10th Street railroad tracks. The Helping Hands of Springfield homeless shelter is just east of there, on the other side of the tracks.

“I wish we would have gotten a poll of the neighbors before we got to this step. It seems like things are being done out of order,” Senor said. “I don’t think they’ve (the neighbors) had adequate time to get this information and digest it.”

Among the lingering questions in Senor’s mind is whether the more than $1 million in downtown tax increment financing funds allocated for the Salvation Army project on North Ninth Street can be used for the new proposal at the Gold’s Gym property, which is outside of the TIF district.

Brooks’ neighbor, Mary Adams, said she already sees bottles and other items left in the nearby Comer Cox Park, which she picks up, and expressed concern that the situation might become worse.

“We want peace in our neighborhood,” Adams said. “We want children to be able to go out and play and feel safe. We don’t know what kind of people they serve.”

Page 2 of 2 – Woodard has said that when city officials approached him about the Salvation Army moving, they said the city would need to acquire the 100 N. Ninth St. property within the next decade, as it continues to push toward consolidating rail traffic along the 10th Street corridor.

An intermodal transportation hub is planned for that area as part of the rail consolidation.

Langfelder said Friday his hope was that a neighboring business, Horace Mann, which will see some displaced employee parking as the rail relocation progresses, would purchase the Ninth Street property, which is across the street from the insurance company’s downtown campus.

A 180-space Horace Mann parking lot will be affected by development of the city’s planned transportation center, Ryan Greenier, vice president for investor relations and corporate communications, said Monday.

He said Horace Mann representatives have been in contact with city leaders about the project.

But Horace Mann doesn’t have an agreement in place related to the Ninth Street property with the city, the Springfield Mass Transit District or the Salvation Army, so Greenier said he was “not in a position to comment” about the potential for Horace Mann buying it.

With the Salvation Army’s plans to move, though, putting some Horace Mann parking at the North Ninth Street property “could be a viable option,” Greenier said.

— Contact Jamie Munks: jamie.munks@sj-r.com, 788-1528, twitter.com/JamieMunksSJR.

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