A plan for Springfield's medical district that would funnel future biomedical development to areas along Carpenter Street between the city's two hospitals received support during a public hearing Monday night.
"It has some good points and some bad points," Marilyn Piland, executive director of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, said after the two-hour hearing at Prairie Heart Institute. "Overall, the plan is good."
Consultants from Baltimore-based RTKL Associates are designing a master development plan for the 1-square-mile district to help attract more medical-related businesses to Springfield in coming months and years.
RTKL's staff presented a proposed draft of a final master plan to an audience of about 85 people but promised to tweak their designs based on opinions from the general public and city officials.
The plan won't take effect until it is approved by an appointed commission overseeing the district, an advisory board of neighborhood representatives and the Springfield City Council.
"We want to be in a situation where everyone feels good about the direction," said Paris Rutherford, an urban planning expert with RTKL.
The firm proposed a "residential transition zone" of future townhomes and small offices as a buffer between commercial development along Carpenter and neighborhoods to the north.
RTKL's designs also pointed out areas adjacent to St. John's Hospital, Memorial Medical Center and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine that the firm believes should be considered for future medical-related projects.
The firm suggested a biotechnology hub at one of the district's western entry points, at Carpenter and Walnut streets.
Future developments, perhaps in coming decades, should be steered toward an area of the district that's west of St. John's and south of Carpenter, according to RTKL.
The district is bounded by North Grand Avenue and by 11th, Walnut and Madison streets.
To preserve residential neighborhoods, RTKL proposed a zigzagging boundary that roughly follows the northern boundaries of properties currently along Carpenter or owned by the hospitals or medical school.
"We wanted to get established the idea that there needs to be a line that you don't cross," RTKL designer Patrick Kennedy said.
Once city officials approve a master plan, it's likely that city zoning maps would need to be changed to conform.
Based on comments from the public since June, RTKL has revised its original proposal that would create a road bridging a railroad line to connect Enterprise Street and Calhoun Avenue. Because of some residents' concerns about increased traffic, RTKL instead is proposing a walking trail to connect the streets.
Piland's group opposes creating any connection between Enterprise and Calhoun because existing homes probably would need to be torn down.
Several residents questioned the safety of RTKL's proposal to turn Fourth and Seventh streets from one-way into two-way streets - a proposal that isn't central to the future of the medical district but one that RTKL said would improve the quality of neighborhood life.
City officials would have the final say on whether any streets are changed to two-way, Rutherford said.
The medical district commission is expected to discuss the master plan with RTKL officials at the commission's Sept. 15 meeting. It also will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday at the offices of the Illinois Technology Enterprise Center, 320 E. Carpenter, Suite 240, but no vote on the master plan is expected then.
Dean Olsen can be reached at 788-1543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.