Springfield’s DDA works on Walt’s renovation, façade and small business grants

File photo. The former Walt’s furniture store prompted the City of Springfield to establish a Downtown Development Authority.

Springfield’s Downtown Development Authority is moving forward with plans to renovate the former Walt’s furniture store and lease it to a tenant who would sublease it to businesses such as a restaurant, retail and professional offices.

 

Erin Phillips, the city’s community development director, said the DDA is working on an agreement with a particular tenant that would spell out the deal in detail.


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She declined to identify the tenant, saying negotiations are continuing. She said she hopes a lease will be signed later this summer.

The DDA would renovate the building, using a combination of grants and loans. The main tenant would pay the DDA back for the renovation over 15 years in a lease-to-own arrangement.

After bids are let and a contractor is chosen, construction would take about a year.

Phillips said the building would have spaces for a variety of tenants. She said whether the DDA would have approval of the tenants who sublease the building is still being negotiated.

She said the building would be designed to face Laurel Street and also Ulmer Park, which the city plans to rehab one day.

The DDA will work with a professional consulting firm that deals with public-private partnerships to seek grants for the project.

“Walt’s is a very, very large building,” she said. “It’s daunting for a first project for a brand-new DDA. But it needs to be done.”

After the Walt’s project is finished, the DDA will move on to other buildings downtown.

The DDA also has proposed offering facade improvement grants and startup grants to new businesses.

“The DDA board believes that offering … incentives will: entice new small business to open downtown; encourage existing business to stay downtown; and promote revitalization and renovation of existing structures in downtown,” the DDA said in a letter to the city council.

The council was scheduled at their meeting on Tuesday to consider the DDA’s request for $15,000 for the grants and for marketing, training and travel.

The facade grants would be matching funds from $500 to $2,500. They would pay up to half of the cost of qualified projects, up to $2,500 per project.

The startup grants would be awarded to businesses that create new jobs. Businesses could get $1,000 per full-time employee, up to $2,000 per business.

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