It did its job, and it did it well.Erin Phillips, Springfield's community development director
SPRINGFIELD — Mission accomplished!
The Springfield Revitalization Corporation (SRC) voted to dissolve March 15 after achieving long-term objectives it shared with the Downtown Development Authority. The SRC formed shortly after the path of Ga. Hwy 21 was shifted westward to bypass downtown Springfield in 1997, moving traffic away from local businesses.
“I don’t feel that there is a need for it anymore and I think that is a good thing,” said Erin Phillips, an 11-year SRC board member and the DDA’s community development director.
Led by most recently by President Matt Gill, the SRC, like the DDA, was committed to the revitalization, preservation and economic prosperity of the downtown area.
“The DDA is in place and I don’t honestly know how much more revitalization that we can accomplish with that group that is not already being handled,” Phillips said.
In an e-mail to fellow SRC members, Phillips recommended that the SRC dissolve.
“Springfield has seen some amazing growth and progress in the past few years,” she wrote. “There is an influx of new businesses that are taking pride in their storefronts and making some impressive improvements. As the downtown coordinator for the city, I can say that the vacancy rate has all but disappeared and nearly every building that was underused and vacant in the past few decades has been renovated and occupied. We are running out of things that need revitalization — and we should consider that a good thing!”
Created by the Springfield City Council in 2016, the DDA voted to accept the SRC’s remaining funds — about $5,000 — with the stipulation that $2,000 of it be spent on Springfield’s annual fall 5K run series and spring bike ride. Both are fundraising events established by the SRC.
“Two thousands dollars is about how much they cost before they make any money,” said Phillips, who has spearheaded both events in recent years. “The bike ride annually makes about $2,000 profit and the 5K series — last year was the fourth year that we’ve had it — and it made $800. The year before that it made $2,500.
“I think the two of those together could be really good fundraisers for the DDA. It could come out to $4,000-$5,000 a year if they continue at their current level and I think there is room to grow for both of them.”
The SRC, which typically featured a board of 8-12 members, suggested that a portion of the proceeds from the fundraisers be used to recognize downtown improvements. The recognition could come in the form of grants or awards.
DDA Chairman Lonnie Pate expressed gratitude for the SRC.
“I want to say that — if it hadn’t been for the SRC and the members of it — we wouldn’t have the Mars Theatre,” Pate said before a vote to create a committee to plan and facilitate fundraising and outreach events for the DDA. “It would not be there without the City (of Springfield) and the SRC, and that is now the anchor of downtown, in my opinion. We want to honor that.
“You may be dissolving the actual entity as a legal term but you are still going to be a part of this community and a part of this body. That’s the whole point of this motion is to create a subcommittee and continue what has been happening all these years.”
The Mars Theatre opened in 1945 but closed a dozen years later after its audience declined because of television. It remained dormant until the 1970s when it was converted to office space, serving multiple purposes until the SRC mounted an effort to return the theatre to its original glory.
The SRC bought the Mars Theatre with the goal of renovating it.
“They had a hard time raising money because I think they thought it would be easy to do some fundraisers to make the mortgage payments” Phillips said. “They kind of struggled with the mortgage payments and then the City of Springfield bought it.”
The SRC continued to collect money to buy sound equipment, ice makers, sinks and other furnishings for the theatre after it changed hands. Construction started in 2007 and finished in 2014.
“After it was all said and done, about $45,000 was given toward the theatre (by the SRC),” Phillips said.
The SRC turned its attention to downtown beautification after the City of Springfield reclaimed control of the theatre.
“Anything and everything possible was done to bring life back to Springfield and raise money to help restore buildings and revitalize our downtown,” Phillips said in her e-mail, “and thanks to everyone who served on the SRC Board, it worked. Downtown is thriving and only getting better. I smile every time I see the street lined with cars and people walking up and down the sidewalks.
“It’s with both a smile and a heavy heart that I’ve come to the personal conclusion that the Springfield Revitalization Corporation is no longer needed. It did its job, and it did it well.”