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City Details Results of "Zone Blitz" Project in Northwest Springfield

Megan Burke

The City of Springfield says the results of its so-called “Zone Blitz” speak for themselves. The project was a massive, grassroots attempt to address poverty in northwest Springfield, and city officials briefed the public on the results Monday.

It wasn’t called a “blitz” for nothing: the massive undertaking brought together around 300 organizations—churches, non-profits, health organizations, schools, agencies—led by city government officials. 

The goal was to home in on the oldest part of the city: Zone 1, where the cases of violent crime, fires, and chronic disease were higher than other parts of the city.

First there was a listening tour.  Based on that, city officials identified 11 areas needing work.  Then, Zone Blitz Teams were formed in the summer of 2015.

City Manager Greg Burris was at the helm.

"And we turned them loose. And said, 'Okay, you put together a strategy and a plan for how we should address that particular issue over the next 18 months,'" Burris said.

Those topic teams brainstormed. Then, they made a list of projects—a  sort of “project catalog” for 

Credit Megan Burke / KSMU
Mayor Ken McClure, left, and Council members Jan Fisk and Phyllis Ferguson listen to the briefing Monday.

volunteers to sift through.

“So we used that catalog anytime someone was looking for a project and wanted to help. [We’d say], ‘Here’s a list of 60 projects you can choose from.’ So we engaged a lot of different groups over that 18 month period,” Burris said.

Each of the eleven topic areas had multiple projects under that topic.  

For example, the topic of wellness included a project that had residents learning how to take their neighbors’ blood pressure. 

The city says it “put more teeth” into the nuisance property enforcement regulating run down properties.

A job center opened up in north Springfield; the report shows 104 people who went there seeking employment now have jobs. The Northwest Project was launched as a community for families trying to move way from the clutches of poverty.

“It was always meant to be grassroots-oriented, with an attempt to get as many people involved as possible. And it was a really rewarding experience,” said Cora Scott, director of civic engagement for the City of Springfield.

Access to food was another of the eleven topics.

Credit Megan Burke / KSMU
Francine Pratt oversees Prosper Springfield, an initiative to follow through on the Zone Blitz to keep the momentum going and determine which programs were worthwhile.

“Ozarks Food Harvest, during the Zone Blitz, provided 5.5 million meals in Zone One. That’s tallying around $7.7 million in value,” said Scott.

City officials say $52,000 of the city’s contingency budget was designated for communication and administrative costs.  City Council approved an additional $45,000 for neighborhood cleanups. And the blitz included $7 million in infrastructure improvements –paid for largely out of capital improvement and transportation funds.  

So what happens now that the “blitz” is over?   City officials say they will work with the intiative Prosper Springfield, headed by Francine Pratt, to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. They hope to keep the momentum going and spread the success stories. Burris said he also hopes all residents of Springfield see that these efforts benefit the wider city—not just those living in Zone One.

KSMU devoted a 10-part Sense of Community Series to the Zone One Blitz. You can read those stories by selecting "Sense of Community" under the “Programs” tab on our website.

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