EMMA ROUTLEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO

A panoramic shot from the Willamette River to the restored organ factory, now a home to artists, shows part of the development area.

GLENWOOD – Springfield’s economic development leaders met this week to generate a clear vision and priorities for partnerships on the nine-acre Glenwood riverside property.

The goal of the Springfield Economic Development Agency (SEDA) – which was discussed during part one of a two-part meeting stretch – was to identify themes and priorities for guiding the draft of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) document. 

“The point is to try to figure out what we want as a group of elected officials … so there is a cohesive vision for what we want to see specifically out of development on the site,” said facilitator Lorelei Juntunen. 

Courtney Griesel, economic development director, said that this process is important because it will identify what type of developer SEDA looks to attract, and helps them identify and match SEDA’s priorities for the property. The plan is to choose a developer by the end of the year. 

Two projects have been of interest as of late, including Glenwood Development’s pitch for a 20-story hotel, and LOCALIS Partners’ pitch for a soccer stadium and a skating rink. Both include plans for various grades of housing, conference/hotel structures, parking, eateries and retail shops. If either developers want to continue pursuing the property, they must now reapply using this new process. 

“There was no process to these two proposals coming in … we need to formalize the conversation about how we’re going to come to a decision as a board. That’s what it’s going to take for Glenwood to move forward from here,” mayor Sean VanGordon said. 

Before the identification of priorities, however, some board members voiced confusion about the process to transition to RFQs. 

Commissioner Joe Berney said he was confused by the SEDA’s announcement to move forward with the RFQ requests that did not come out of a public meeting. “We left it saying we are going to look at the two proposals ... I didn’t think we made a decision. I thought we talked about it privately in executive session,” he said.

EMMA ROUTLEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO

Area residents Joe Baker, left, and Daphne Mantis look over proposed plans for the Glenwood site.

Kristina Kraaz, assistant city attorney, explained that, “The board can provide direction to staff, both in public meetings and outside public meetings, on the content of agenda items for future public meetings, so there is no legal requirement to adopt a decision to select a proposal, because there was no request for proposals that’s bound to result in a decision,” she said.

The process is similar in the way citizens make public comments and requests to the board, Kraaz said. 

“The board can discuss and consider that idea, but it is not part of a formal legal process that’s bound to result in any particular decision,” Kraaz said. “And so no formal decision is legally necessary, although it is at the board’s discretion how you would like to take votes to document actions going forward.”

Director Leonard Stoehr said he would rather take a different approach. “It seemed to me that we have not really made any sort of conclusion, even at the executive meeting. In the interest of transparency if we are even going to be giving guidance right now, we should be doing it in public.” 

The board discussed how the selected Glenwood project would align with the Glenwood Refinement Plan. A qualified developer would work within the framework that has already been guided by the community and the council of vision through the refinement plan.

“The Willamette River Greenway Plan calls specifically for a certain amount of public space in between the river and any development that takes place, and I think we should honor that,” Stoeher added.

Those refinement plan recommendations were a mix of uses that prioritize connectivity, access to green spaces, and the river and ample housing. Policies are in order within that plan to make sure the project connects to the river and that the area remains aesthetically pleasing and fits into the context of the area.

“We do anticipate some refinement plan amendments may be needed to facilitate development,” Griesel said. “If an amendment is needed, we would not outright consider that as a reason that a development couldn’t come to fruition.”

When polled about priorities, director Marilee Woodrow said she feels strongly about parks and open spaces on the property because of its ideal location on the river, and in respect to the community members that have voiced their desire to see open space there. “It’s really important because we have a part of our community that’s asking for us to really consider (open space).”

One of those residents is Daphne Mantis, who has been meeting with residents in the Glenwood area and voicing her concerns to council. She said she hopes that SEDA chooses to partner with a developer who prioritizes the values and guidelines set forth in the Glenwood Refinement Plan and the Willamette River Greenway plan.

Director Damien Pitts said that Springfield misses out on cultural events to Eugene because they have larger outdoor spaces.

“We would be able to host large cultural events and as we look to change the cultural landscape, that’ll make people actually want to move here and stay here,” Pitts said.

VanGordon said that while he agrees, there needs to be an “economic catalyst” that the property is centered around. “We just have to have some sort of centerpiece” that generates money, he said.

Housing and event facilities were also polled at the top of the list, notably community gatherings, sports venues or conference centers. Definitions of what “affordable housing” means to developers would need to be broken down and presented to the board. 

At the June 14 meeting, SEDA will dial more into the logistics of the RFQ process, engagement around community members, agency partners, neighboring properties and partner engagement. 

“We’ve all got our own ideas and feelings ... but I just feel like we’re at the point now where we’ve got to come together,” Woodrow said. “Each one of us isn’t going to get everything we’d like to see … When we come back on June 14, I’d like for us to come back with an idea of, ‘we’re going to make something work. We’re going to make this work.’”