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City, SCAD taking a look at the possibilities

POSTED: May 26, 2011 7:35 p.m.

The city of Springfield is using a designer’s eye in taking a look at what its downtown could be.

The city is working with the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the school’s graphic design and interior design disciplines are looking at potential uses for Springfield’s city hall building.

“We sent them several different ideas of projects they could work on,” said City Manager Brett Bennett. “They selected to do a project on this building of what potential uses to help with the revitalization of downtown Springfield.”

The location of churches in the city restricts the territory in downtown where restaurants that want to serve alcohol can locate.

“This is a very good location for something like that,” Bennett said.

Erin Rahn of the Effingham Industrial Development Authority, a SCAD graduate, helped set up the connection with Springfield and the SCAD professors. Springfield representatives have met with the SCAD groups to go over the ideas and the possibilities.

Bennett was talking with the IDA’s John Henry and Ryan Moore about potential uses for the city hall building.

“It’s a unique building with its location and size,” he said. “I give all the credit to Erin for getting us in the door.”

City Hall also is in a great location with the renovation of the Mars Theater occurring literally next door. Bennett said one of the thoughts of the SCAD team and the city is what to put in City Hall that will work off the theater and serve as an anchor for downtown.

The group will present its ideas to the city May 31 at 6:30 p.m. Bennett said they hope to have one of two options for the city hall complex. One is a more government-type facility with some capabilities to hold events. Another is a possible mixed-use building, with a commercial or retail interest on the bottom and apartments above. It’s a concept that is catching on in other cities.

“We wanted them to show an example of what could be done with this building, to set an example of what we’re trying to push in downtown,” Bennett said.

Bennett urged that the city isn’t looking to abandon City Hall for a new spot anytime soon. But the city has recognized that its current city hall building sits on a commercially viable spot.

“Are we planning to do something with this building? Not necessarily. We’re just looking at all kinds of options,” Bennett said.
“Several councilmen have said for years that if we want a thriving downtown, we need retail space, not government offices on this street. We don’t need to discuss doing anything unless we have a plan for this building.”

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