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Zone 1 Improvements to Be Piloted in March, While Some Residents Question Priority Issues

Emily McTavish

  Community members from each of Springfield’s Zone 1 neighborhoods had the opportunity to hear about various project ideas to improve the northwest quadrant at the Zone 1 Connect event on Saturday morning. However, it was also an opportunity to ask questions, share more ideas, consult maps, make priorities and scribble down notes.

Saturday’s event was part of phase three in the Zone Blitz, and comes after the city’s Community Listen sessions back in May, where concerns surrounding poverty in the nine neighborhoods were voiced. At the connect event, participants ranked and prioritized initiatives by what their neighborhood needs.

Credit Emily McTavish / KSMU
Phyllis Ferguson, City Council Representative for Zone 1, says 167 partners, such as businesses and non-profits, will be apart of the improvements to the northwest quadrant.

  “I think people, unfortunately sometimes, have a skewed view of how things are in Zone 1,” Phyllis Ferguson, City Council Representative for Zone 1, says. “When I work with folks in the neighborhoods, it’s like what can we do and we’re a working class neighborhood. And the only thing we know how to do is roll up our sleeves and get after it. That’s what they’re willing to do.”

The city will use February as a planning month to decide and focus on what project ideas will be rolled out come March 1, which marks phase four of the blitz. Neighborhoods will act as pilots with one or more initiatives started that may be extended into the rest of the zone if they are successful.

Topics for the initiatives included chronic nuisance properties, job creation, food access and infrastructure.

Ferguson says citizen turnout between last summer's Community Listen sessions and Saturday’s event has increased. The initiative has also expanded to 167 partners, such as businesses and non-profits, that are committed to helping with improvements. 

However, greater turnout and business partners aren’t all that Zone 1 residents want. They want these improvements now.

Katie Webb, president of the Doling Neighborhood Association, says she is a little confused as to why it’s taking so much time to gather data rather than implement action.

“I’ve become a little disenchanted quite honestly,” Webb says. “There was already a survey done. The city was already aware of what the problems were, and we had the Community Listens in May. I understand the purpose of the Community Listens. It was to cement these items. And overwhelmingly the communities came out and they said we’re concerned about sidewalks, we’re concerned about crime, we’re concerned about poverty, we’re concerned about infrastructure. Every single neighborhood said the same thing.”

Eric Wood, of the Woodland Heights neighborhood, says the problems in Zone 1 have been in existence for the past 20 years, and one of the biggest problems are vacant houses.

“Vacant houses have been known to be tied to crime, health problems, low-property values, poverty, and here we are talking about poverty and there’s no talk about vacant houses,” Wood says.

Wood says there are five vacant houses just on his block, and Webb says there are two on her block as well.

Both Webb and Wood agreed that chronic nuisance properties should be the highest priority in the Doling neighborhood.

From the outsider’s perspective, Missouri State sociology student Alicia Carter says she took note of how the community members were able to connect the various proposals to solve the neighborhoods' problems.

“It’s very important to the people in each one of the communities and how each one is voicing their opinions and how the city of Springfield is listening to them,” Carter says.

Carter says she will try to stay involved with the efforts to improve Zone 1 even though she is not a resident there.

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