Downtown Springfield the new hotspot? Maybe so.
Commercial property is interesting. Changes in rules & regulations or changes in traffic patterns can make the once lively die; or the slow and out of the way into the next hot spot. At one point in time, Sixth and Seventh streets in Eugene were part of Highway 99 which ran from Mexico to Canada. Properties along those streets were prime real estate, but that began to decline with the construction of I-5 in the early 1960’s when much north-south traffic bypassed Eugene entirely.
Similarly, the downtown core area of Springfield used to be the center of town and the most desirable place to be, but this was decades ago. What started the decline isn’t precisely clear, but increased ease of transportation and building of satellite shopping centers or malls didn’t help downtowns. At one point in time, downtown Springfield was the Gateway Mall of its day, and when I grew up here, the Gateway area was merely wet grasslands, laying fallow, bathed by the noise and exhaust of I-5. Time shows us nothing if not that things change. Gateway is hot. Downtown Springfield is on its way back up.
Mayor Christine Lundberg in her 2013 state of the City speech was very positive on Springfield’s possibilities and progress. She even joked that she’s looking forward to having a Logger Lager at the soon to be opened Planktown Brewery.
Probably the start of the Wildish Theater project in 2001 marked the beginning of Springfield’s renaissance. The 284 seat theater took 5 years to complete at a cost of some 3.2 million dollars. LTD opened it’s highly visible and cool looking transit facility in 2004, which gave the area a further boost.
Three downtown bars had their liquor licenses pulled and closed in 2010, which was said to improve things. One of the bars, Jim’s landing, had been in business since 1934 and there was always a bar in that location since the construction of the Fry and Rankin building in 1911. There was also a real estate office in the same building–hmm–sounds like a good idea to me. Neither I nor anyone I know thinks the closing of Jim’s Landing was a good idea. However, the area is on its way up, even if the wheels of progress are sometimes indiscriminate on what they roll over. The spot is for lease, and I’d be glad to show it to you if you have interest.
The Washburne Cafe opened kitty-corner to Jim’s Landing in 2010. The brainchild of Karen Hageman, a longtime area builder, it has a cool urban feel to it. I had breakfast there this morning and will definitely come back. The building was originally the Springfield Armory, built about 1921.
The Plank Town Brewery is a couple of doors down from The Washburne. The target opening date was last Fall, but they seem to be running a little behind. Plank Town is on the ground floor of the IOOF Building, which was built in 1907 for $10,995. The Oddfellows still occupy the second floor.
Is this the genesis of the next Barmuda Triangle or Whitaker? Time will tell, but Downtown Springfield is on its way up.