As chair of Momentum on Main Street, an initiative of Downtown Springfield Inc., David Lee has made it a habit to encourage young entrepreneurs to invest in properties and businesses downtown. Now he says he plans to use the knowledge he’s gained and connections he’s made to launch an “innovative food and beverage concept” in a long-vacant building at 322 E. Adams St. in downtown Springfield.

“I wanted to have a hand in the revitalization efforts,” said Lee. “Through DSI and Momentum (on Main Street) I’ve met a lot of other people who are involved in this project as well.”

Lee is one of the managing general partners for the project, called The Public Market, Inc., which will include a food hall with multiple vendors offering varied menus and three bars that will feature craft beer and wines from Illinois. The surface parking lot in the back of the building will be converted to a beer garden and green space.

“On our second floor will be more upscale dining with a spacious observation deck over the beer garden, and we are most excited about one of the first rooftop bars in central Illinois, with views of both Capitol domes in downtown Springfield,” said Lee.

The venue will also host live entertainment and have event space available for rent.

While the building at 322 E. Adams has been vacant for “the better part of 30 years,” Lee noted that its location puts it in the heart of much of the downtown activity, including the farmers market and Adams Family of businesses, as Café Moxo, Buzz Bomb, Elf Shelf and others have collectively come to be known.

“It’s an amazing location and the building is perfect for the concept,” said Lee, noting that while the size of the building may have been a deterrent to some buyers, the large space will be necessary to accommodate the various elements of The Public Market.

“This exciting new project checks off a lot of boxes for Downtown Springfield,” said Lisa Clemmons Stott, executive director of DSI. “In 2016, we identified that a lack of rooftop space was a big miss for our neighborhood, and we’re excited that Public Market will launch the first activated rooftop for public use. This project fits well with our already strong food culture,” she said.

Lee said he hopes that having a building that allows for shared space and lower overhead will help make a physical location more feasible for business owners who might currently be operating out of a home kitchen or food truck.

“One thing that’s intimidating, especially if you want to be downtown, is that you have to drive your own traffic and do everything yourself, in addition to being the one making the food,” said Lee. “This is going to be something that Springfield hasn’t seen.”

The Public Market is slated to open in summer 2021.