‘Ozark Modernist’ architects plan big new building across from White River Brewing Co. on Commercial Street

If the plan comes to fruition, it could dramatically transform historic Commercial Street in North Springfield.

Architect Tyler Hellweg of Arkifex Studios said their proposed building on West Commercial Street will occupy approximately 37,500 square feet across eight lots. This is so large compared to the rest of the historic district, which mostly dates from the 19th century, that the plans require special city council approval. The C-Street design rules, adopted two years ago, aim to keep the neighborhood buildings in harmony with each other.

Meanwhile, the Arkifex building would significantly increase the number of apartments available on Commercial Street. It would also make room for offices, retail and hospitality.

Lyle Foster has been the owner of Big Momma’s Coffee Shop in the historic district for more than 16 years. He supports the Arkifex building. Zone 1 Councilwoman Monica Horton asked Foster about apartments attached to the building.

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Horton said: “Does this double the number of apartments? Or just a percentage…I know there are apartments on C Street, but I’m also thinking about that apartment component.”

“That’s a great question,” Foster replied at the Sept. 19 city council meeting. “I think this project will see 42 new apartments for the street. Which is important to have new homes for young professionals, prospective Drury community, folks in Cox North as well as empty nesters. Many people are looking for new apartments and love Commercial Street for its easy walkability. It would probably be different people saying different things, but we probably have more than 60 existing lofts, but some of our lofts are increasingly turning into Airbnb structures.”

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Hellweg, the architect, told the council that Foster’s count of the proposed apartments was correct. At a Planning & Zoning meeting earlier this month, another nearby business owner said the new project had another benefit: It would create housing opportunities for people with disabilities and make the historic district more inclusive.

An aerial map of the city of Springfield shows the location of a proposed 37,500 square foot building at a site on West Commercial Street east of the White River Brewing Co.

Screenshot of the city of Springfield


An aerial map of the city of Springfield shows the location of a proposed 37,500 square foot Arkifex Studios building at a site on West Commercial Street east of White River Brewing Co.

But neighborhood advocates are asking Arkifex to tweak their proposal. They say they support the overall concept of the building. They even commended the architects’ talent and noted that Arkifex has worked on several local structures they like — including Springfield’s Tie & Timber Beer Company.

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However, some accused Arkifex of designing their building in a “brutalist” style – a term that usually means a flat, hard concrete structure. Others said they wanted Arkifex to make some changes for a less flat appearance. They want the building’s facade to appear “compatible” with the rest of historic C Street, which consists primarily of narrow 1880’s buildings.

Becky Volz is with the Woodland Heights Neighborhood Association. She said, “Give it something that has movement and flow, if it’s a light fixture or if it’s something you put on the facade so it looks more compatible.”

The Arkifex proposal was passed by Springfield’s Landmarks Board back in June. The Planning & Zoning Commission approved it earlier this month. The council will vote on whether to grant the project a conditional occupancy permit allowing it to be larger than 10,000 square feet at its next meeting on Monday, October 3.

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