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Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010 06:27 am

Enos Park master plan already progressing


Damian Smith and Meagan Herman plan to open a baseball-themed restaurant, “Cubinals,” in the now-shuttered Suzi-Q’s tavern at 716 E. Enos Ave.

Momentum is already building for just the change prescribed earlier this week when Enos Park, a historical but declining Springfield neighborhood, unveiled its redevelopment strategy. The master plan recommends bringing in new businesses, demolishing and rebuilding deteriorating structures and expanding or improving anchor institutions like the Springfield Art Association.

By March 1, the neighborhood, which sits inside the Mid-Illinois Medical District just a few blocks north of downtown Springfield, will have its first new business, says Karen Anderson, an Enos Park resident. Anderson and her husband, Andy, bought the vacant former Susie Q’s restaurant, which they’re now working to turn into a sports bar and grill that they’re dubbing “Cubinals, where friendly rivals meet.” The business, which the Andersons say they plan to open before baseball’s opening day, is a nod to Springfield’s split fan base between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Karen Anderson’s granddaughter, Meagan Herman, will run the restaurant, but Anderson, who used to own Karen’s Country Café in Grandview until she closed it about 15 years ago, will serve as mentor and landlord.

The private investment the Andersons are making is an example of what has to happen in order for the master plan to become a reality. Authors of the plan, which also calls for significant infrastructure improvements, say total revitalization will cost about $45 million from private and public sources and take between 10 and 20 years to achieve.

“There have been some real pioneers in this neighborhood,” says Michelle Higginbotham, vice president of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, as she lists residents, including the Andersons, who piece by piece have bought up and revamped deteriorating properties.

But the master plan, which lists about 70 percent, or 459 of 651, residential Enos Park properties in less than good condition, calls for faster change on a bigger scale. That’s where the newly formed Enos Park Development LLC comes in. The organization, a nonprofit that’s run by the same people who head up the neighborhood association, will have a more formal structure and will have the ability to apply for state and federal grants.

“We really feel like that’s going to open a lot of doors for us,” Higginbotham says. The LLC will also be able to accept donated property, allowing owners of nuisance properties who aren’t interested in fixing them up to give them away.

The master plan, and its call for a cultural campus anchored by the Edwards mansion, is already in motion as the Springfield Art Association is now forming a new campus planning committee. The association has also scheduled preliminary conversations with Springfield School District 186 to discuss the possibility of turning McClernand Elementary School into an arts magnet school.

“The Art Association and Edwards Place are anchors to Enos Park, and we’re not going anywhere. The way I see it is we’ve sort of ridden out the worst of the tide and there’s optimism about bringing the neighborhood back up. I see us as a real leader in that,” says Betsy Dollar, SAA executive director.

She says that bringing more artists, who tend to beautify their surroundings, into a neighborhood and sharing the association’s assets with the school can help speed up the neighborhood’s recovery. “Until you stabilize the local school, a lot of the families who would move into the neighborhood aren’t going to come until they get the feeling that the school is a place that they want their kids to go,” Dollar says. “Right now the transience of McClernand school is too great.”

The art association is also negotiating with other area arts groups to pool resources and create a more developed arts campus within Enos Park.

Contact Rachel Wells at rwells@illinoistimes.com

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