Patriotic dogs strut their stuff at pageant

Many celebrated the Fourth of July holiday weekend with the cutest dogs in the Capital City.

The Springfield Jaycees and Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase hosted a patriotic dog pageant as part of the Capital City Celebration Saturday evening.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes came out to strut their stuff in hopes of winning some sweet prizes.

Organizers say that it’s great to give the community an adorable show.

“It’s a way for the community to come out and enjoy our furry friends,” said Ellyn Thomson, president of the Springfield Jaycees. “And on top of that, we are benefiting the APL food assistance program tonight so all of the entries and, as well as our raffles, will all be going towards the food assistance program which benefits our community.”

Saturday’s winners received a basket filled with goodies provided by local businesses.

Wyndham hotel rooms could go away; sale to New York firm nixed by city council

The future of the Wyndham City Centre as a hotel could be in doubt after the Springfield City Council Tuesday rebuffed a zoning variance for a New York-based company to buy the downtown hotel.

The current owner of the Wyndham, Springfield’s tallest building at 30 stories, insisted its hotel rooms would go away as a result of the vote.

The possible disappearance of 370 downtown hotel rooms would put the city in a lurch as conventions appear to pick up after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan to sell the Wyndham to GoodHomes, which had plans to install a penthouse observation deck and food court, ended in a 5-5 vote Tuesday.

The zoning variance would have allowed for 320 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments and 80 hotel rooms. The variance needed seven votes to pass because not enough members of the Springfield Planning and Zoning Commission supported it earlier.

Scott Dahl, the director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city has 26 conventions with peak room nights, over 300 rooms, from 2023 to 2025. In that period, downtown alone has 56,000 room nights booked.

“There will be fallout for sure (without the Wyndham),” Dahl said.

Mayor Jim Langfelder said the city would circle back with Al Rajabi, who bought the Wyndham in a foreclosure sale 2019, to see what could be done to retain its current value.

Rajabi insisted several times during Tuesday’s meeting that he had limited options in the face of struggling occupancy numbers and a bank note due Aug. 10.

The San Antonio, Texas-based Rajabi said while he has “liquid” to not let the Wyndham go to the bank, the problem is years of deferred maintenance on the property.

Rajabi’s plan is to have 200 government-subsidized apartments in the building with no hotel or retail space. He said in the meeting that no additional zoning was required.

“No one wants to lose hotel spaces,” Langfelder said afterward. “If he’s going (with just apartments), then we’ve really lost out.”

Voting against the sale were Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, Ward 4 Ald. John Fulgenzi, Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso, Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan and Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer.

Ward 5 Ald. Lakeisha Purchase said Tuesday that Friday was the first time she heard about the housing arrangement as Rajabi’s “last option.”

“This is what we did not want,” Purchase said.

Rajabi had planned to turn the hotel into a Marriott before the pandemic struck. He refused to answer questions.

“That’s your city leadership,” he said, boarding an elevator after the meeting.

David Mitchell, representing the proposed buyer Tuesday, said the project was pegged at $40 million with a substantial re-do of the inside of the hotel.

The hotel rooms would have been styled on Marriott “luxury hotel suites,” Mitchell said, but DiCenso reminded Mitchell that “we’re a corndog and doughnut kind of town.”

During the meeting, Rajabi said he was operating at 24% capacity and that wasn’t sustainable as a business model.

“I’m really sad this is where we’re at,” Rajabi said. “I don’t want to do government-assisted housing. That’s not in my business plan, but that’s the only option I have because the building has to be updated.”

Dahl said the capacity of the Wyndham “isn’t a reflection of what’s happening in Springfield from the travel and tourism side moving past a 100-year pandemic.

“It’s been a tough two years (for big box hotels), but we’re trending upwards,” Dahl added. “By 2025, I predict we’ll be running 1 million rooms in the city of Springfield (with the addition of the Scheels Sports Complex), so I don’t understand why you wouldn’t make that investment on the hotel side.”

Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin, who voted for the variance, also encouraged Rajabi “not to abandon the hotel opportunity (Dahl) demonstrated would come once we come out of COVID.”

After hearing from both Rajabi and Mitchell, Ward 3 Ald. Roy Williams Jr. said he was taking the position that “80 (hotel) rooms is better than none. If we don’t support it, we’re going to put ourselves in a worse situation about what we’re very so much concerned about: hotel rooms.”

The downtown hotel began as the Forum 30 in 1973. It was renamed the Hilton Tower in 1980 but became known simply as the Springfield Hilton. The change to Hilton, including new signage, took place in 1998. The hotel switched its brand to Wyndham in late 2015.

Governor Pritzker announces upcoming renovations to Illinois State Armory

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – Governor JB Pritzker announced critical renovations taking place at the historic Illinois State Armory in downtown Springfield.

The project will consist of a complete renovation of the Armory to provide executive office space for employees from various state agencies.

Renovation work will take part in two phases of construction beginning in July 2022. The work should be done in July 2025.

The project is funded by a $122 million investment through Rebuild Illinois.

The building has served lots of different uses over the years but has been unoccupied for the past several years.

Governor Pritzker said the renovations and office space consolidation will improve state agency efficiency and save Illinois taxpayers money.

“Rebuild Illinois is turning the Illinois State Armory back into what it should be: one of Springfield’s crown jewels,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “With a bipartisan-backed $122 million investment, we’re making room for state employees to not only make a professional home of the state-owned building, but also to bring new life to the streets and shops of downtown Springfield. I know how important this project is to revitalize and reimagine our capital city, and I’m proud that the state can deliver for Springfield residents.”

“As Chair of the Military Economic Development Committee, I know the importance of honoring the legacy of our military and the brave service people who protect us,” said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. “Thanks to the investments in communities through Rebuild Illinois, the renovations to the Armory will uplift this historical structure into the future to further its legacy so that it can continue to be a cornerstone in downtown Springfield.”

Improvements and renovations to the Armory will include the creation of efficient and flexible office space, the extension of natural light into the building and creating a central atrium within the original auditorium.

“I am pleased to see the significant investment in such a prominent feature of the Springfield cityscape,” said State Senator Doris Turner (D- Springfield). “I am looking forward to the completion of the project to bring one of Springfield’s great buildings back to its former glory.”

“The Armory is an important part of our state history,” said State Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur). “I am very thankful for our community to have the opportunity to preserve this fine structure. Thanks to Rebuild Illinois, many of our constituents will have employment.”

“The Illinois State Armory is an iconic and loved building to the citizens of Springfield,” said Assistant Republican Leader Tim Butler (R-Springfield), “and reopening it is something I am asked about frequently. Repurposing this building into significant office space on our Capitol Campus is a tremendous use for this historic structure. I applaud everyone involved with Rebuild Illinois who have allowed us to make tremendous investments such as this in our Capital City.”

“As Ward 5 Alderwoman, I am thrilled that Governor Pritzker and the State Legislature have prioritized the rehabilitation of the Armory Building, an iconic structure on our Capitol complex,” said Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase. “The Armory Building holds important historic and cultural significance for Springfield and the entire state and it’s restoration will serve as another catalyst to downtown Springfield development. Thank you to Governor Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly for recognizing the importance of putting this magnificent building back in use for the people of Illinois.”

“A hallmark of The Next 10 initiative has been to strengthen the connection between State Government and local Springfield,” said John Stremsterfer, President and CEO of the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln. “Working together on meaningful and forward-looking projects will keep Springfield among the great State Capitals in the United States. It is exciting to see so many transformational projects on the horizon.”

“The Armory is one of the largest state-owned buildings in Illinois, and the Capital Development Board is looking forward to working with the State Historic Preservation Office to complete these exciting renovations,” said CDB Executive Director Jim Underwood. “Once both phases of work are complete, the facility will once again be a key piece of downtown Springfield’s State Capitol complex.”

The building is currently unoccupied, as it has dealt with ongoing damage due to water coming in from the roof, basement, and exterior walls. It has extensive mold and mildew growth and a large quantity of asbestos containing materials.

CWLP warns Springfield neighbors to prepare for rolling blackouts 

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND)- City Water Light and Power is preparing for controlled outages this summer, to avoid a total blackout in the city of Springfield. It comes as the Midwest is facing an energy shortage.

During the heat of summer, neighbors may be asked to turn off their air conditioning and major appliances.

“During the cooling season, your air conditioner is usually- for a typical property- is your highest usage. So you can turn your thermostat up to 78 degrees. You could delay any major appliance use, delay laundry, using the washing machine, the dishwasher,” Amber Sabin, Supervisor of Consumer Services with CWLP, told WAND News.

Cities across the midwest are being asked to cut back as coal, gas and nuclear power plants shut down faster than new energy sources can be brought online.

“The regional grid, which CWLP is connected to, could see some shortfalls during peak times,” Sabin explained.

Neighbors should prepare to take action during peak times, like weekday afternoons, if CWLP issues an Orange Level warning.

If not enough people act, CWLP could be forced to entirely shut off power for 15 minutes at a time.

“And then red is the notice that there’s still a shortfall, in order to avoid a total blackout we need to implement a protective power outages across the city,” Sabin added.

City leaders told CWLP at city council Tuesday night, they’re concerned about vulnerable residents and key infrastructure.

“I’ve heard from Ed Curtis, from Memorial, they’re very concerned. They cannot do surgeries with a one-source electricity. There has to be exemptions for the hospitals if possible,” Alderman Chuck Redpath, of Ward 1, said during the meeting.

“Some of these elders can’t even walk. So they can’t go down any stairs. So if its going to be an hour or so, knowing if you’ve got to go grocery shopping or doctors appointments- do that earlier in the daytime,” Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase, of Ward 5, added.

But CWLP said without these actions there could be permanent damage to the electrical grid.

CWLP has launched a website where advisory levels will be posted. There, neighbors can also learn when their power is expected to be restored, if their neighborhood is part of a rolling blackout.

Springfield Alderwoman Reads to Local Kids, Shares Inclusive Message

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WAND) – A Springfield alderwoman has been sharing an inclusive message when reading to local kids.

Lakeisha Purchase, who represents Ward 5 in Springfield, has been reading to kids in February as part of Black History Month. Over the weekend of Feb. 12-13, Purchase read books to kids at two different places.

One book she read is called “Skin Like Mine.”

“(It gave a) message that we need to be comfortable in our skin and our skin does not matter when we’re together as well,” Purchase said. “So it talked about being comfortable and it talked about us being united and it talked about us not picking on each other.”

Purchase said it’s important to share a message of unity for kids and to teach them it’s OK to be different from each other. She said people should be proud of their differences.

Alderman push for quicker response times to liquor license applications

News Channel 20 by Sydney Dorner

Watch the interview here:

The city of Springfield may be changing the way it approves liquor licenses for businesses.

At city council, concerns were brought up about how quickly the city responds to owners seeking a liquor license. Now aldermen are taking a look at the process to see if it needs to be reformed.

Alderwoman LaKeisha Purchase thinks there should be a set time in which the city has to reply.

“Whether its concerns, approval or denials, ” said Purchase. “But if there’s concerns you have 30, 60, or 90 days to get that information back in to do a rebuttal.”

Alderman Joe McMemenamin says there are many steps to get a liquor license that take time like a background check and making sure applicants are not in debt to the city. McMemenamin thinks overall its better to be strict.

“It’s a review process, “said McMenamin. “Off course if we make a mistake, we’ll get into trouble but if we review too carefully we can upset some people. But bottom line it’s a privilege not a right.”

Downtown business owner Anthony Dandrudge says it took months to hear back from his previous alderman but once a new member was appointed the ball got rolling.

“Don’t hide anything, “said Dandrudge, the owner of Truth Lounge. “Be extremely and fully transparent. Have all your paperwork and documentation ready.”

Alderman Chuck Redpath thinks background checks aren’t necessary for a liquor license and says all permits for the city need a quicker turnaround time.

“We need to find a better way to do it, ” said Redpath. ” So we can speed up the process to get peoples their permits faster on all fronts but liquor license is the one we are concentrating on right now.”

Alderwoman Purchase says Mayor Langfelder, who is also the city’s liquor commissioner is looking into crafting ordinance that sets a firm timeframe for when the city has to respond to businesses for all permits not just liquor licenses.

We reached out to the Mayor’s office about wait times for liquor licenses and have not received a response at this time.

Great House BBQ Opens Downtown

Fans of Great House BBQ can get their fill once again. The restaurant closed its west-side location last summer and originally hoped to be open downtown by August. However, the issue of whether or not the existing hood and exhaust system had to be replaced – at significant expense – caused delays in getting the new location at Fifth and Adams streets open.

“Our Public Works department is really understaffed. There was a lot of back-and-forth, but we got it worked out so they could open up at the first of the year with a modified menu,” said Ward 5 Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase, who has been assisting owner Renatta Frazier in coordinating with the city’s building and zoning department.

Frazier owns the business along with three of her four children: Kurtis Mitchell, Dianna Mitchell and Benjamin “BJ” Frazier. Another son, Kourtney Mitchell, is a silent partner. The family originally opened Great House BBQ in October 2019 at 4233 W. Wabash in the former Tasty City Seafood & Trio space. In June, Frazier told SBJ about plans to open at 11 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, which most recently housed The Incubator, a café, bar and co-working space that closed during the early days of the pandemic.

In addition, Frazier said several other businesses are in the works that will be operated by various family members. She is also leasing space at 9 W. Old State Capitol Plaza, which formerly housed The Remedy Bar & Drinkery, and plans to open a bar and nightclub called The Cave. “My son, BJ, will be overseeing the day-to-day operations for that,” Frazier said, while her daughter, Dianna, plans to open a bakery called Tyler D’s Café and Cakes in the space at 5 W. Old State Capitol Plaza where Long Nine Junction was previously located. A gaming café is already operating in the small space adjacent to the restaurant, and Frazier said Adams Street Convenience Store will soon open in the space at 441 E. Adams that used to be a tattoo parlor. “We had thought about doing a fitness center, but we feel like a convenience store is needed downtown,” she said.

Since The Remedy previously had a liquor license, Frazier said she doesn’t anticipate any delays in getting the new bar open, and Purchase confirmed she is supportive of the application. “I’ve known Renatta since she moved back here. She’s always shown professionalism and I feel very good about her establishment being added to the downtown Adams family businesses,” Puchase said.

According to Frazier, ‘”We’re pretty confident that we’ll have it done by the end of the month, or at least by Valentine’s Day.”

In the meantime, Great House BBQ is now open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-1 a.m. and Sunday 12-5 p.m.

Weekend Recap – Dec. 11-12, 2021

🎅🏾 Weekend Recap 🛷
It was such a magical moment to cherish with Santa, Mrs & Mr. Lincoln over the weekend.
If you haven’t had a chance to come downtown, you still have three chances left to experience the Old Capitol Holiday Walks Presented by INB and continue to support our local stores. I found some unique pieces at Wild Rose and my ruby red lipstick 💄 at Willow & Birch.🛍
When I say, the timing was perfect for our Christmas giveaway “emergency kits.” We had extreme heavy winds with a tornado watch! 🌪 💨 If you received a free pass in your coffee mug, please be sure to use your family pass before January 1st at the YMCA!
This would not have been possible without the partnerships and I want to personally thank Molina Healthcare, YMCA of Springfield, Cafe Moxo, and Mel-O-Cream Donuts for participating in adding important items to resident households that will benefit them in emergency situations!
Last but not least, Union Baptist Church celebrated 150 year Anniversary and 2021 Cantata. Your service was simply amazing. All our messages recognized the commitment Union Baptist has to our community, THANK YOU Pastor Mac for having us each share a message with the Union Baptist family about your work in the church and especially in the community.
Remember there is a place at the table for everyone!

Springfield Small Business Saturday a Success

Successful Small Businesses Saturday

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) — The 12th annual Small Business Saturday was a success in the Capital City.

The day was started by American Express and the majority of small businesses reported they are expecting a bigger holiday this year even with supply chain shortages.

Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase said she had an amazing time downtown at Tuesday night’s Committee of the Whole Meeting.

“We had business downtown that did over $20,000 in sales,” Purchase said.

Almost 80% of small businesses say sales from Small Businesses Saturday and this holiday season will determine whether or not they can keep their doors open in 2022.

Springfield getting its first rooftop bar

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WICS) — Springfield city council met for its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night and passed many ordinances that will have a big impact on Springfield going forward.

First, the council approved $520,000 of downtown TIF funds to go to Floyd’s Thirst Parlor for their project of building a kitchen and opening the Capital City’s first rooftop bar at the downtown location.

John Gabala, the owner’s attorney, gave a brief presentation and he said this move will expand downtown dining options and help revitalize the downtown area.

Ward 5 Alderwoman Lakeisha Purchase was instrumental in getting the project off the ground and said she is ecstatic to have another economic driver in the area.

“The fact that we are able to create more jobs in this entity, that says something, too,” Purchase said. “We are coming out of a pandemic, but we are still in it in for an entity such as Floyd’s to have that impact and be able to create these jobs, both full-time and part-time, it says a lot”

The city’s portion is one-third, or $520,000, which comes from the downtown TIF. The rest of the money will be a loan from a local bank. Gabala said the project would create 41 jobs – 25 full-time and 16 part-time.