By The Editorial Board
The State Journal-Register
Posted Jan 16, 2013
Eight years ago, The Garrison Group proposed a project for the shuttered Esquire Theatre property on MacArthur Boulevard called Cherry Grove Shoppes, a pedestrian-oriented development that would have had a small grocery store, stores fronting the street, parking in the back and no booze.
With the highbrow misspelling of the word “shops” and the inclusion of a fruit that doesn’t grow in a grove around here in its name, the upscale development was a dream for residents who live along the aging
boulevard. It fell through, as did a similar plan in 2007 by a Chicago-based developer. Last year, residents and Springfield aldermen killed the idea of putting a used-car dealership on the south side of the property because it required a variance allowing the cars to be displayed on the parking lot outside.
This page was critical of that decision, which would have redeveloped only the south half of the Esquire property and not the theater itself. While the plan would not have followed the mixed residential and
commercial development plan written by consultants at the Lakota Group in 2011, it was better than what’s there now.
City development officials and the president of the MacArthur Boulevard Business Association visited us recently and reaffirmed their support for sticking with the Lakota Group’s plan. Had the dealership gone through, the property would have been cut in half with the least attractive part – a building that will be potentially costly to demolish – being all that was left, they argued, also noting that the Lakota Group recommendations were less than two years old, too early to abandon.
In retrospect, they were right — at least for the next several years as we see how the development of a Hy-Vee grocery store affects the rest of MacArthur Boulevard. We believe, as they do, that Hy-Vee will be an enormous boost for the neighborhood that, combined with the future availability of tax-increment financing, should provide enough incentive to get someone to develop something special on the Esquire property.