Despite the demonstrated demand for apartments in downtown Springfield in the 2013 Bowen Housing Study, less than half of the number of units have been constructed to meet that demand in the eight years since the report came out.

Downtown advocates are hoping that a new workshop will jumpstart more property owners to make the investment to renovate their vacant upper stories into apartments. In 2020, Downtown Springfield Inc and the Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation won a Johanna Favrot Grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to fund an analysis of three building types in the neighborhood and use that information to create a localized playbook for upper story conversion. The $10,000 matching grant is supported by funds from US Bank and the Heritage Foundation.

A free, 1.5 day workshop led by Upstairs Downtown will take place on July 19-20, 2021, at Merchant House/Urban Event Space, hosted by DSI’s Momentum on Main Street Committee and the Downtown Springfield Heritage Foundation. Anyone can register for this free workshop at:

Upstairs Downtown is an award-winning downtown revitalization consultancy led by Dan Carmody, the CEO of a nonprofit corporation responsible for operating the largest public market in the United States, and Mike Jackson, retired division chief of the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office. Their team has analyzed three specific buildings in downtown Springfield from both an architectural and financial perspective, and they are prepared to share their findings — as well as real-world advice for how to move downtown Springfield forward — for property owners, investors, advocates, code officials, real estate agents, architects and engineers.

The second half-day of the presentation will feature a deep dive into financial options, led by Brian Hollenback, the president and CEO of Economic Growth Corporation. Hollenback led the development team who successfully turned the abandoned First United Methodist Church at Fifth Street and Capitol Avenue into Centre at 501, which now includes the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce’s new headquarters as well as 25 apartments, including multiple affordable housing units.

The workshop is geared to Main Street stakeholders who are not full-time real estate developers, so that they may obtain a working knowledge of the development challenges and opportunities needed to increase the use of vacant upper stories in smaller historic buildings. It is the first in an educational and networking series planned for 2021 by DSI’s Momentum on Main Street, picking up where it left off before the pandemic with a goal to attract the next generation of investors, developers and entrepreneurs.