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Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2008 01:28 am

Street talk

Medical-district to revisit master plan recommendations

Planners of the Illinois Medical District at Springfield wanted to create a space where people could work, shop and live. In order to build those new healthcare facilities, retail outlets and multifamily housing units called for in the district’s master plan changes would have to be made to how traffic moved. Now some of the plan’s original traffic recommendations will receive a closer look thanks to a grant from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Mike Boer, president of the now Mid-Illinois Medical District commission, says the survey will provide much more detailed information about the costs and impact of infrastructure deficiencies. The master plan, finalized in 2005 with a grant of $175,000, calls for the conversion of some one-way thoroughfares into two-ways, relocating railroad tracks eastward, installing bike trails and creating a network of pocket parks.

In 2006 Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced the $49,500 grant award from the Illinois Tomorrow Corridor Planning program, to the city of Springfield to examine traffic patterns based upon current and projected uses in the one-mile-square medical district.

Boer says the award was held up for so long because of “differences in opinion over language in the contract” between IDOT and Springfield city attorneys and the challenge of finding the source of a required local match of $5,000, which will come from the city’s Enos Park tax-increment-financing fund. He adds that the scope of the traffic survey will be “pretty large” and will examine water and sewer issues as well.

Despite the hard economic times in other sectors, the healthcare industry continues to grow and therefore some businesses located in Springfield’s medical district have been insulated from the economy’s downturn.

“I would expect that would continue to be the case even though we’re mired in this recession,” Boer says. However, he adds, developers remain hesitant to invest in new housing construction — a key component of the medical district plan.

In other medical district news, the final vacancy on the 11-member panel that oversees the district will also likely be filled soon by Mayor Tim Davlin. According to city-hall communications director Ernie Slottag, Davlin has offered the position to someone but the person has not yet accepted.

The mayor expects the slot to be filled before the end of the year, Slottag says.

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