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Thursday, July 4, 2013 12:00 am

A city moving backward

More questions about the Jefferson Crossing project.

* The project will require subsidy in the form of $9.2 million in tax increment financing -- believed to be the largest single TIF award in Springfield’s history. Is creating buildable land in a floodplain necessary in a city that has thousands of acres of unbuilt or underused land not subject to flooding? Is it wise to borrow the money needed for such work from the city’s schools, parks and library?

* The project is being touted as a way to heal the scar left by the failed Jefferson Mall. What happens to the site if the new center does not succeed?

* Is it really the case that this strip center will, as Mayor Houston told the SJ-R, capture additional business and sales tax revenue? Additional to what? A one-of-a-kind store like Sheels adds money to the local economy by taking it out of the pockets of shoppers who come from dozens of counties. Is it not true that a neighborhood convenience center only moves from one pocket to another money that’s already being spent in Springfield?

* The project, said backers, means “jobs and taxes and good things for the city moving forward.” Is it not true that jobs and taxes and good things for the city moving forward will happen wherever it’s built?

* The north end of the rebuilt site will be converted into a park with a “lake,” which is how you spell b-o-r-r-o-w p-i-t when you’re sweet-talking the city council. Is this is a viable spot for such a park? Who will pay to maintain it? At what cost?

I acknowledge that there might be more to the Jefferson Crossing project than meets the eye. (I hope so.) I accept that giving Springfield a sixth McDonald's, for example, may finally soothe the ache that troubles the city’s heart. Not that it will likely be good for the city’s hearts, of course. But maybe I underestimate the city council's cunning. Making it fast-food friendly is good economic development policy for a city that has nearly as many heart surgeons as it has car mechanics.

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