Several houses on East Cherry Street are being demolished to accommodate a residential development.
SBJ photo by Jessica Rosa
Several houses on East Cherry Street are being demolished to accommodate a residential development.

Rountree developments stacking up

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An Austin, Texas-based real estate development company is demolishing several homes in the Rountree neighborhood to make way for student housing.

Haken Holdings GP LLC is in the process of tearing down four houses with plans to build 14 two-story, cottage-style homes with porches, said Laurel Bryant, president of the Rountree Neighborhood Association board.

It’s the latest in a series of commercial and residential projects to pop up in the central Springfield neighborhood, just east of the Missouri State University campus. A grocery, pottery studio, floral shop, and bar and live music venue are among those set to open in the next few months near the intersection of Cherry Street and Pickwick Avenue.

Bordered by Glenstone and National avenues, and Catalpa and Cherry streets, Rountree is known for an eclectic mix of small businesses and over 1,000 houses, generally built at the turn of the 20th century, plus more recent apartments and student housing.

Neighborhood association officials say they’re keeping a close eye on the new and future developments in order to maintain the diversity, walkability and safety of Rountree.

“We knew these projects were coming and have had great dialogue with the developers,” Bryant said.

Neighborhood fabric
Justin Helms, who owns Haken Holdings, said he is managing the newly announced residential project, dubbed Cherry Street Cottages. The project is operating under HD Springfield LLC, he added, declining to disclose the planned investment.

The vacant homes being demolished are at 1301, 1315 and 1319 E. Cherry St., along with 524 S. Kickapoo Ave.

Mike Brothers, the Rountree association’s board secretary, said the five lots on which the future housing will be constructed were combined before a development moratorium in the neighborhood went into effect in June 2017. It was active until December 2017, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.

The board is vigilant in reviewing proposed projects, Bryant said, but isn’t opposed to developments across the board.

“Overall, it’s kind of a wait and see to find out what the final designs will be,” Brothers said, adding the neighborhood board isn’t opposed to the latest project, based on what it knows at this time. “We want to ensure they are enveloped in the fabric of the neighborhood.”

Rountree is in an urban conservation district, which allows the neighborhood to identify and solve problems with noise, safety, residential overcrowding and trash, according to RountreeNews.org.

“We like renters and we like students. It all adds to the neighborhood’s character,” he said, but noted not every project is ideally suited to Rountree. East Cherry Flats, a luxury apartment complex built in 2015, is an example he sees as ill fitting.

“East Cherry Flats doesn’t feel connected to the neighborhood at all,” Brothers said.

The association was critical of RKJ Properties LLC’s plans for the East Cherry Flats project prior to construction, particularly noting it did not conform to the general character of Rountree. The apartment complex, which replaced three functionally obsolete buildings, was later approved by City Council.

Brothers said the board began to revise the UCD after the four-story apartment complex opened. It’s an ongoing process that is nearing completion, but board officials say it has involved the desire for low-density, quality projects.

Market entry
For the Cherry Street Cottages development, Bryant lamented the loss of longstanding houses in the neighborhood, which she said were built between 1915 and the 1930s. She was given permission by the city to salvage some of the houses’ architectural features, including doors, wooden floors, hardware and a bannister.

“It’s just hard to lose existing housing stock when it’s just more student housing replacing it,” she said.

Helms said the 4-year-old company has built numerous cottage-style student housing projects in the South and Southeast near college campuses, such as University of Arkansas, Baylor University, Louisiana State University and Florida State University. He said Springfield serves as the first Missouri project for Haken Holdings. The company was looking for markets with a growing student population and wanted a site close to the Missouri State University campus.

“They feel like they have their own house,” he said of the 1,600-square-foot homes designed with four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms. Designs call for parking to accommodate 45 spaces in the middle of the development.

After the completion of demolition and site preparation, Helms said construction should start around January 2020 with completion aimed for August next year. Lease rates are yet to be determined, he said.

In progress
The incoming development is the latest in a series of ongoing projects in Rountree, which include market concept Culture Counter, a brick-and-mortar spot for Skully’s Food Truck and The Royal, a live music and bar venture. Additionally, Artistree Pottery LLC and Greens, a florist business, are set to occupy 1423 E. Cherry St. All of the businesses are expected to be up and running by early next year.

Nearby at 906 S. National Ave., a $10 million mixed-use development designed to replace the current home of the Baptist Student Union is planned near MSU. The project, slated for completion in July 2021, is set to have a pedestrian-friendly landscape connecting to Rountree.

Those projects were preceded by the arrival of Team Taco LLC, which opened in August at 1454 E. Cherry St., near the Pickwick Avenue intersection and across the street from Tie & Timber Beer Co. On Pickwick and just down the street from the ongoing infill work at Culture Counter, Ellecor Design and Gifts opened in January.

Redevelopment for an East Cherry Street pocket neighborhood is in process by Springfield-based real estate development company Say You Can LLC. The company has made a $1.4 million investment in six attached, single-unit residences.

Neighborhood officials say the pocket neighborhood could help contribute to diverse housing in Rountree.

“We did not oppose this project because we see it could work for different people like seniors or single professionals,” Bryant said, noting maintaining the character of the neighborhood is a challenge. “We’re trying to keep diverse housing.”

Another challenge is increased traffic.

Discussions with the city on traffic calming measures have been ongoing for several years, Bryant said, adding officials determined the Cherry and Pickwick intersection was not large enough for a roundabout.

One solution is extending the curbs out to narrow the roadway at Cherry and Pickwick, while providing more space for pedestrians and plantings. That work by the city is expected to begin early next year, she said.