Category Archives: News

DeWeese Family wins ICON Good Neighbor Award for Individual for their urban beautification efforts on Lawrence-MacArthur vacant lot

The DeWeese Family were awarded the Good Neighbor Award for Individual at the 2022 Springfield Inner City Older Neighborhood's Annual Celebration.
Kurt & Diana DeWeese

Historic West Side Vice President Kurt DeWeese and his wife Diana DeWeese (and their daughter Marissa) were awarded the Good Neighbor Award for Individual at the 2022 Springfield Inner City Older Neighborhood’s Annual Celebration for their work to keep the vacant lot on the southeast corner of Lawrence & MacArthur from being commercialized.

Many thanks to ICON for the award!

Kurt DeWeese is no stranger to the Springfield City Council or to zoning issues, and he has been an outspoken opponent of up-zoning and spot zoning that would damage the character of residential neighborhoods.

“So when he spoke against a zoning change to allow a parking lot on the southeast corner of Lawrence and MacArthur, it was no surprise that his well-researched history and arguments against the rezoning would help the council decide to deny the changes.

“What may have been a surprise to many was what happened next. The DeWeese family purchased the vacant lot, located just two blocks from their home in the Historic West Side Neighborhood Association, keeping it safe from future commercial development.”

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Westminster Presbyterian’s “Field of Hope”: Creating a Family Home in the Historic Westside Neighborhood.

Westminster Presbyterian Church in Springfield, IL, located at the intersection of South Walnut and Edwards streets, reports that it has successfully initiated a project deemed the “field of hope”.

Rev. Dr. Blythe Denham Kieffer wrote about the initiative in a guest column for the State Journal-Register (11/6/2022), Westminster acquired property at 626 South Glenwood to work with the City of Springfield to demolish and replace a “.. dilapidated home and carriage house …” on the property, and with Habitat for Humanity construct a new home next year for a family of seven who will make their home in the Historic Westside Neighborhood.

This project grew out of the church’s 2020 Steadfast Neighbor Service week and stems from its religious beliefs and commitments.

Read the column at…

HWSNA Advocacy to Protect and Preserve Our Neighborhood: City Council Denies Parking Lot on South MacArthur, Zoning Commission Denies Privacy Fence, Zoning Requires Privacy Fence Setback

Last Updated: October 5, 2022

The HWSNA has most recently reviewed and provided testimony before the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission in OPPOSITION to two petitions seeking to erect large non-forming privacy fences on side yards of properties located on street corners. The decisions of the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission in these 2 cases was FINAL without review by the Springfield City Council.

  1. In January 2022, the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission denied a petition for a 0%-open privacy fence for 957 Williams Boulevard that was temporarily too close to the property line. The City Code requires any such fence to be 50%-open. The Commission adopted a motion that requires additional setback. The petitioner has since complied with the standard by making the existing fence 50%-open.
  2. In March 2022, the Planning & Zoning Commission allowed a 0-% open fence for 1001 Williams Boulevard, but required that it be setback 8 feet from the property line. The petitioner in this case appears to be installing a total privacy fence within the required setback

The HWSNA also provided testimony for 2 other Zoning Petitions:

1) In January 2022, the HWSNA testified before the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission in OPPOSITION to a petition requesting a change in the zoning classification, as well as variances for parking, for the property located at 1149 West Edwards, to enable the property to be leased for the purpose of the establishment and operation of a specialty (Italian) food store.

The HWSNA expressed concern that a general and permanent reclassification was too broad and could enable more intensive land uses in the future beyond the specialty food store.

The Commission approved the petition as submitted.

The HWSNA took no formal position when the petition was considered by the Springfield City Council in February, which subsequently approved the petition.

NOTE: As of October 5, 2022, there has been no apparent alteration or development of the property with respect to the establishment of the food store.

2) On March of 2022 the HWSNA testified in OPPOSITION to a petition considered by the Springfield Planning & Zoning Commission to convert vacant property located at 800 South MacArthur Boulevard to a paved parking lot, together with variances to not provide landscaping or lighting.

The HWSNA expressed strong concerns about traffic safety and the negative impact on the residential character of the area.

The Commission approved the petition as submitted.

The HWSNA submitted a valid Protest Petition to the Springfield City Council, which would have required a 2/3 vote of the Springfield City Council to approve the petition.

The Springfield City Council denied the petition by unanimous vote April 19, 2022.
Read about this decision in the State Journal-Register…

Subsequent to that denial of the petition for the parking lot, members of the HWSNA Diana and Kurt DeWeese purchased the lot at 800 South MarArthur Boulevard and intend to improve it under a landscaping plan that will include a tree-planting and assorted flower beds. A prominent Historic Westside sign is also included in the plan.

August 24, 2022, 4-6pm: Information Session on Intersections of Lawrence / MacArthur and Lawrence / Walnut

The Office of Public Works for the City of Springfield and Fuhrmann Engineering hosted a public informational meeting for the proposed Lawrence Avenue Safety Improvements.

This open house showed plans highlighting traffic signal and turn lane safety improvements at the Lawrence Avenue and Walnut Street intersection, as well as the Lawrence Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard intersection. The even took place on Wednesday, August 24 from 4:00pm-6:00pm at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 533 S. Walnut.

Read more about this at the city’s website:

This was the second public meeting for this safety project where modified section designs will be shared with the community.

Thank you to everyone who came to National Night Out 2022

Tuesday, August 2, 2022, 6:00pm - National Night Out!

Our first meeting back after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was a resounding success!

Thank you to all our neighbors, first responders, officers, and city officials who joined us for sandwiches, beverages, and good conversation.

Special thank you to Westminster Presbyterian Church for hosting our National Night Out event!

See you all at our next Historic West Side Neighborhood Association meeting on Monday, October 24, 2022.

2018 National Night Out – Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church

2018 National Night Out on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Come join us for 2018’s National Night Out on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at Westminster Presbyterian Church (Corner of Edwards and Walnut).

We will have Head West sub sandwiches, ice cream and other treats and beverages. Please come visit with us! Feel free to bring family, and invite friends and other neighbors.

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Sweetgum Tree removal program

The City is now accepting applications from residents willing to pay $250 apiece to have sweetgum trees removed from public rights-of-way adjacent to their property.  After removal, city crews will backfill holes.  The city will also replace the sweetgums with nicer species at places where they won’t block streetlights or threaten sewers or sidewalks. Removal will done as time allows, with a limit of one tree per resident.  Applications prioritized on which trees pose the worst problems.

October 25, 2012 Meeting Update

Beginning January 2, 2013, our area will have two new neighborhood police officers, Jonathan Wingerter and Jennifer Howard,  who will be replacing Joe Phillips and Jason Brands.  A special “thank you” to Joe and Jason for being great NPO’s for the past three years.  They were very instrumental in helping us rid our area of a particularly problematic housing situation., in addition to their regular duties.

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Neighborhood Signage

On April 20, 2012, HWSNA was informed that we were one of the grant applicants who would be receiving funds from the Ward 6 Revitalization and Rehabilitation Fund to help us finance a sign to be prominently displayed at a designated spot for our neighborhood association. Bids were sought from three companies and after much investigation and comparison by the board members, Ace Sign will be producing and installing our new sign soon. We very much appreciate the decision of the committee from Ward 6 that choose our group to be one of the recipients of funds this year. Combined with HWSNA resources from past home-tour fundraisers to finance the project, the sign is now in production and we hope to be announcing an installation date this Fall. Thank you to Cory Jobe and Ward 6 for their assistance.

Corner Beautification

We have a limited number of orange tulip bulbs plus some yellow or orange hyacinth bulbs and Easter lilies available for corner plantings. Available on a first come/first served basis, beginning with HWSNA members. If you live on a corner or have a neighbor who lives on a corner and you have permission to beautify that corner space, please contact HWNSA president Carrie Becker.

Lawrence & MacArthur: Focus on deterrence in bid to make intersections safer

By Kurt DeWeese
State Journal-Register, Published Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Historic Westside Neighborhood Association (HWSNA) shares everyone’s concern about traffic safety and will support reasonable, prudent solutions to the problems at the MacArthur/Lawrence and Walnut/Lawrence intersections.

We do not oppose change. We support growth and development in the area, if it can be accomplished with the least disruption to the environment and with full consideration of the quality of life for area residents. We sincerely hope that there is not a rush to judgment, nor endorsement of the straight-line thinking of traffic engineers who only recommend major capital improvement of the intersections as the highest and most immediate priority.

We have repeatedly recommended safety improvements for these intersections, and support the modest initiative of installing the yellow warning lights. We agree that it is time for additional action. Mayor Tim Davlin recently reported that the warning lights have already had a significant impact. Similar, relatively low-cost options should be immediately considered in lieu of a massive capital improvement.

First, a hard analysis of traffic accident data should be conducted to determine primary causes. For example, it was obvious from his description that the cause of the accident involving former Ald. Irv Smith was driver error. The person responsible ran the red light, which could have happened at any intersection whatever the configuration. Our preliminary analysis indicates that most of the accidents at these intersections have also been the result of fundamental, speed-related or reckless driving.

Springfield drivers are notorious at many intersections throughout the city for “… gunning it on the yellow to beat the red light …” and “… failing to yield on left turns …” The configuration of an intersection is not a primary cause of these types of accidents. We believe that prevention should focus on deterrence, prior to implementing changes that will only invite more and higher speed traffic.

Residents in the immediate area support constructive solutions. One resident who lives just three doors from the MacArthur/Lawrence intersection noted that she was personally involved in an accident at another, properly configured intersection in Springfield.

“I was hit at the Monroe/Veterans Parkway intersection by a careless driver,” she said.

Another nearby resident just two doors off the same intersection observed that: “Effective tree-trimming in the spring and summer months makes a difference in the accident rate.”

Mike Jackson, who lives at that intersection said: “I’m delighted the city wants to spend an extra $ 1.5 million in our neighborhood. We just need to help them get their priorities straight.”

Other residents whose homes are located on Lawrence Avenue, Phillip Anderson and Donna C. Boggs, feel that widening the intersection may result in higher speed and collisions and that this could lead to more injuries and fatalities. Anderson, who lives four houses from the corner, said, “People really fly down Lawrence for these long stretches. Other major streets in Springfield – North Grand, South Grand, Fifth Street, Sixth Street, Macarthur and Wabash – all have more frequent stoplights, one after another, but not Lawrence.”

The Historic Westside Neighborhood Association recommends that an additional, pedestrian-activated light be installed at either Amos or Feldkamp. These residents agree that enforcement of the speed limit is the most effective way to radically reduce accidents. Drivers must know that they are at high risk of getting a ticket. Signs that read “Speed radar enforced” should be posted. If the intersections gain a reputation for busting speeders, it will certainly slow traffic nearer to the legal posted 30-mile-per-hour limit.

Retiming the traffic signals and adding left-turn arrows for southbound and eastbound traffic are other suggestions that should have a positive impact at a fraction of the $1.5 million estimated cost that has been cited for the capital project restructuring the intersection. The current set of lights was installed decades ago when there was less traffic congestion.

There also needs to be a more deliberate pause between the red, yellow and green lights to deter drivers from speeding up to “beat the red light,” or cruising through an intersection in anticipation of the green light before the lights actually change. The only downside to this approach may be a few seconds added to drive time, but this would obviously be outweighed by the value of accidents avoided, injuries prevented and lives saved.

Ward 8 Ald. Kris Theilen has suggested that lighting be staggered so that each direction will have its own travel period – in much the same manner as traffic is regulated at the Wabash/MacArthur and Wabash/Chatham Road intersections. We have been informed that these techniques have proven effective in other cities throughout the country. This must be accompanied by stricter enforcement activity, which may include photographic monitoring.

We sincerely plead that the city of Springfield attempt low-cost, less-intrusive options before any allocation of funds for a major capital project. There are clearly higher priority capital projects, including basic maintenance of all city streets and remaining downtown improvements.

We agree that the status quo is not reasonable, but the fact that other alternatives have not been attempted over the past 20 years does not mean that they are not viable. We do not believe that traffic engineers for the city of Springfield have given full and fair consideration to the alternatives.

City officials must also consider the fact that there are two elementary schools in the immediate vicinity, and heavy use of Washington Park. Capital improvements that increase traffic volume and speed, together with reductions in the rights-of-way along these busy streets add to the safety risk for the children who walk to and from school, as well as for the residents throughout the city of Springfield who frequent the Williams Boulevard/Washington Park areas.

Finally, it is simply too easy to say that the residents of the HWSNA are standing in the way of progress and putting their own selfish interests ahead of the entire community. We believe that the historic near west side of Springfield is at extreme risk of deterioration.

The city comprehensive plan gives a high priority to the preservation of our residential area. The quality of life remains high, but we fear that the pressure for turning the area streets into thoroughfares will send the wrong signal to residents that the city of Springfield puts the interest of commuters over the residents of the near west side.

I believe that the approach to this issue can be a turning point. Minimizing the interests of area residents may mean that the remainder of MacArthur Boulevard will give way to the commercial blight that exists between South Grand Avenue and Wabash. It is not so long ago that the commercial corridor of South MacArthur was residential. We hope that the rest of the city of Springfield continues to protect and preserve the near west side and to support our effort to implement reasonable and prudent traffic safety solutions.

Kurt DeWeese is vice president of the Historic Westside Neighborhood Association.