Mark Lastinger
Effingham Herald
Published: Jul 26, 2022, 9:41 AM

SPRINGFIELD — Laurel Street’s business landscape has changed from barren to bountiful. Buildings that used to be empty and decaying a few years ago are showing significant signs of economic life.

“We love to go down there to visit Flacos House and Daisy Mae’s Cafe,” said Rincon’s Sean McBride, who was in Springfield with his family Saturday. “The revitalization has created such a family-centric place to go. The revitalization is an amazing thing for our community.”

The growth spurt coincides with the birth of the Downtown Development Authority (DDA).

“The DDA was created in 2016 and, shortly after, the City (of Springfield) applied for the new Rural Zone designation to help incentivize growth in our downtown,” Community Development Director Erin Phillips said. 

Tax credits made possible by Rural Zone designation encouraged property owners to renovate their buildings.

“The Rural Zone area is a little larger than downtown or the DDA Area but was still limited to Laurel Street properties at the time,” Phillips said. “When we applied in 2017, we had 13 vacant structures in downtown. We currently only have one that I can think of right now. 

“I think that statistic is pretty telling. We had 13 of 60 downtown commercial buildings vacant in 2017. Now we have only one and many of those renovated now have multiple businesses in them.”

A team consisting of  DDA board members, city council members and the president of the Springfield Merchants Association was established to ensure that the Rural Zone was a success. Its goals were:

1. Improve marketing of downtown business to both new and existing residents of Springfield and Effingham County.