The 21st Show

Group Calls For Rehabing Old Pillsbury Mills Plant In Springfield


Mary Hansen/NPR Illinois

The abandoned Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield is due for a renovation. Community members are mobilizing to redevelop the plant nearly 20 years after it closed. 

Speaking on the 21st Show, Chris Richmond, a member of the Moving Pillsbury Forward initiative, said the plant in its current condition is dangerous because it's deteriorating and easily accessible; and the community is ready for a change. 

"They want to see something else come into its place that is once again productive for their area of town and for the entire community," Richmond said. 

Richmond and his group recommend the city purchase the lot, saying projects like these have to be publicly owned at the beginning to get federal and state funding. The owner would then have to seek private partnerships to further the development process. 

In Rockford, the city bought the empty Amerock building and turned it into a hotel and convention center, said Joel Zirkle, who led the building's redevelopment study. He said public ownership was important "because the private sector wasn't simply going to step in and take on the environmental challenges of the property." 

The decline of manufacturing nationwide has left large, vacant properties all across Illinois and the U.S.

Donald K. Carter, a senior research fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Remaking Cities Institute, highlighted Pittsburgh as an industrial place that is trying to re-invent itself. For example, empty buildings have been renovated into lofts and other residential spaces. 

Carter said in many cities, residents want to preserve the legacy of the buildings and plants that long played an important role in their communities in the past.

Guests: Joel P. Zirkle a principal engineer with Fehr Graham. Chris Richmond, from Moving Pillsbury Forward in Springfield. Donald K. Carter, a Senior Research Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s Remaking Cities Institute and co-author of "RE–USA: 20 American Stories of Adaptive Reuse".

Prepared for web by WILL intern Sidney Madden. 

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