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City says University Heights developer now seeking planned development request for Sunshine & National

Be Kind & Merciful development company wants to put up commercial buildings in University Heights at the corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, shown here on Nov. 8, 2023.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Be Kind & Merciful development company wants to put up commercial buildings in University Heights at the corner of National Avenue and Sunshine Street, shown here on Nov. 8, 2023.

The City of Springfield says Be Kind & Merciful LLC is now seeking a planned development status for its property in University Heights — requiring a specific site plan and stricter standards than commercial zoning.

The company that wants to build a food hall with pickleball courts at the northwest corner of Sunshine Street and National Avenue was expected to present their ideas later this month at a Springfield City Council meeting, after their plans were recently rejected for a second time by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

But on Wednesday the city announced that Be Kind & Merciful developers have withdrawn their request for City Council approval of a proposed commercial rezoning.

Instead, the city says BK&M is now seeking planned development status for its 2.6-acre property at the busy corner across from Mercy hospital.

In Springfield, a planned development is a type of rezoning that involves more exacting requirements than simple commercial zoning, including a specific site plan to be provided by BK&M.

A city spokesperson told KSMU late Wednesday that at this time, BK&M has filed "pre-development" paperwork, a step that comes before a formal application in the planned development process.

Since the company’s intention to develop businesses on the Sunshine Street corner went public back in summer of 2022, residents of the nearby University Heights neighborhood have strongly opposed the idea.

Thirteen months ago, some of them sued BK&M in an attempt to block the project. The residents say century-old property deeds prohibit anything commercial from being built alongside houses in the University Heights neighborhood.

That lawsuit is set to go to trial beginning January 18.

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