“Everybody says they love it, even people who at first didn’t understand it.”
That’s how Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mike McDorman characterizes reaction to the National Road Commons Park in downtown Springfield.
The park opened in October. McDorman calls it a backbone connector park designed to stimulate development. “The park brings a focus to redevelopment that’s happening,” he said.
The chamber is working on placing a four-story, 60,000 square-foot office building near the park, and McDorman indicates they’re making positive strides toward making that a reality yet this year.
He told me he regularly sees people using the park — especially at lunch time — and taking pictures of the Madonna of the Trail statue that was relocated there. He believes more of the workers in nearby buildings will make their way to the facility as time goes on.
The Community Improvement Corp., the chamber’s development arm, owns the park and must maintain it. McDorman tells me the cost is “significant — about $15,000 a year.” The National Trail Parks and Recreation District has helped, especially with irrigation.
The park is not yet finished. McDorman points out there are still some small items left, like flag poles and lighting. Also planned are seven, 350-pound Westcott urns, which McDorman hopes to have in place before the America In Bloom judging July 23 and 24.
What we see now is the first phase of the park. Expansion is planned, with the green space ultimately stretching from the Heritage Center to Buck Creek.
But McDorman was quick to add that it could take as long as 20 years, coming after the next project — a nearby parking garage that he sees as probably five to six years out. Of course, all the plans depend on funding.
In the meantime, he stresses the National Road Commons will play a key role in continuing the momentum in downtown. “We’ve got the common thread of the park — the National Road concept,” McDorman said. “That’s what made Springfield and what will make Springfield in the future.”
He foresees the further formation of a convention district downtown that will host a variety of events.
Mildred Thomas, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, chaired the effort to raise money for the restoration of the madonna in 2003.
“I love having her where people can walk up and see her,” she said, pointing out it’s an improvement over the previous location, between Ohio 4 and Snyder Park Golf Course.
Thomas said she has received positive feedback about having the statue in the commons, and thinks “the whole park will be a great thing of beauty for the downtown” in the future.