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Should Springfield allow a drive-through Loose Goose on the new Grant Avenue Parkway?

Loose Goose derelict gas station canopy is shown August 12, 2022.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
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A team of five entrepreneurs want to transform this derelict gas station at Grand Street and Grant Avenue — shown Friday, August 12, 2022 — into a drive-through food, coffee, cocktails and package liquor shop that would also offer pickleball games. That would require changing Grant Avenue Parkway zoning rules.

How do you freshen up a neighborhood without disrupting traffic or the pedestrian experience? That’s a balance Springfield City Council is trying to strike as it considers proposals for the three-mile bike and pedestrian route along the new Grant Avenue Parkway.

Councilmembers are considering a unique business with a drive-through for the area—but that would require changing the zoning rules around the intersection of Grant Avenue and Grand Street.

A trio of Springfield developers — Willie Grega, Andrew Doolittle and Cameron LaBarr — has joined forces with Michelle Billionis and Joshua Widner, the owners of The Coffee Ethic and Cherry Picker Package and Fare.

The team of five entrepreneurs want to transform a derelict former gas station at the corner of Grant Avenue and Grand Street into the Loose Goose. The Loose Goose would sell food, coffee, cocktails and packaged liquor — and it would offer pickleball games.

The business would also have a drive-through — but that’s prohibited by Grant Avenue Parkway zoning rules adopted just last year. The special rules are intended to promote “place-making” as the city redevelops that area.

Drive-thru could accomodate 26 cars, says engineer

At a public hearing on August 8, a project engineer for Loose Goose told council that the acre-and-a-half site would be able to accommodate 26 drive-through cars on the property. Doolittle, one of the developers, said it would have 33 parking spaces and wouldn’t be disruptive to the parkway experience.

“If you walk up or you bike up from the parkway, which will be on on the other side of Grant, you won’t interact with the driveway at all as a pedestrian," Doolittle said. "It’s going to be completely screened from you. At no point in time while you're on our property will you interact with the drive-through, or have to cross through any traffic or do any of that. So if you’re a pedestrian you can still be a pedestrian.”

Earlier this summer, Council declined to offer a zoning change to a 7 Brew drive-through coffee shop proposed for East Sunshine Street by a different team of developers. But several city leaders — including Councilwoman Heather Hardinger — commented positively about the Loose Goose proposal at the recent hearing.

A Grant Avenue Parkway map shows the route from downtown Springfield to Wonders of Wildlife.
City of Springfield
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City of Springfield
The Grant Avenue Parkway begins construction in early May 2022.

“I think this project is really exciting for Springfield," Hardinger said. "I don’t think we have anything quite like it right now. From what you’re showing us, this seems to be a great place to hang out and relax and get to know a part of Springfield that, maybe a lot of people haven’t been hanging out in.”

The Grant Avenue Parkway project is a $27 million project to transform the corridor from Sunshine Street to College Street downtown. Council is set to vote on the proposed zoning change Aug. 22.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs and investigations.