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Pillsbury Neighborhood Vacant Lots and Abandoned Houses Project

726 N 11th St. is a city owned vacant lot. The 68’ x 38’ lot was the site of a single-family home in the Pillsbury Neighborhood for decades. In 2002, delinquent property taxes for the house lot went to a tax buyer. The vacant home was demolished by the city in 2014.

726 N 11th St. is a city owned vacant lot.
726 N 11th St. as a single family home.
The vacant home was demolished by the city in 2014.
The vacant home was demolished by the city in 2014.

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The vacant lot at 726 N 11th St. is still owned by the city of Springfield in 2021. There are more than 40 lots in the neighborhood that are currently city owned or in control of the county deed trustee. There are currently over 20 houses in the neighborhood that are with tax buyers and headed down the same road as the 726 N 11th St. lot used here as a case study.

November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot. This relatively small effort along a busy street corridor improved the visual appearance of the area. Similar vacant lot projects have been accomplished by volunteers at more than 25 lot locations in the Pillsbury Neighborhood throughout 2021. The lot at 726 N 11th St. is one example of local volunteer efforts to improve the neighborhood.

November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
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November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
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November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
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November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
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November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
BEFORE
November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
AFTER
November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
BEFORE
November 7, 2021, two volunteers worked for three hours to trim overgrown brush, mow, and pick up trash from the lot.
AFTER

Strategies for improvement of the Pillsbury Neighborhood have begun. A lot-by-lot analysis took place in early 2021. Priorities were developed. An action plan formed. Volunteers responded. In 2021, the neighborhood improved.

Moving Pillsbury Forward vacant lots and abandoned houses project has had a successful year. Our volunteers and supporters have improved the living environment and quality of life for the residents of the Pillsbury Neighborhood. We collected numerous truckloads for junk, eliminated overgrown vegetation and improved sightlines throughout the neighborhood.

In 2022 the work will continue. A Spring clean-up has already been planned. Teams of volunteers are forming. The strategic, coordinated effort will continue moving the entire neighborhood forward.

Yes…we are still working to resolve the Pillsbury Mills situation that has saddled the neighborhood with a negative influence for 20 years. It remains the root cause of decay in the neighborhood and surrounding area. The efforts to resolve the protracted Pillsbury Mills challenge are as focused as they have ever been. Both the Pillsbury Project and the Vacant Lots/Abandoned Houses Project will continue moving forward in tandem.

These projects are advancing because of our volunteers and supporters…THANK YOU!

Chris Richmond
President, Moving Pillsbury Forward, NFP
pillsburyproject.org

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The Old Pillsbury Mills Saga / October 2021 Update

I personally became involved with the Old Pillsbury Mills saga in October of 2014 when the owners pulled down the multi-story dryer building at the old flour mill. They were scraping out the metal from the property for profit. That incident prompted neighbors nearby to call 911 as a large dust cloud engulfed the area. They were afraid workers at the site may have been hurt. I listened on my emergency radio as fire and police crews responded to the scene. As it turned out, none of the owners or workers at the site were injured from the building collapse that day. The injuries sustained by the neighborhood and Greater Springfield community, however, would soon be apparent.

An investigation started shortly after the October 2014 incident. It was found that the owners had not removed asbestos from the dryer building prior to the purposeful October collapse. Furthermore, it was found that the owners had not been following prescribed demolitions procedures when demolishing buildings containing asbestos and other environmental hazards. The investigation eventually led to a federal criminal trial that resulted in a negotiated guilty plea and a two-year prison sentence. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency exercised its authority and placed an injunction on the property in late 2015. The Pillsbury Mills owners were locked out and barred from entry into the site until they could show the court a plan for environmental testing and cleanup. Six years later, that injunction is still in-place. No plan has been developed. The court proceedings continue. The injury to the surrounding community persists.

In six years’ time quite a lot has happened at the site. Four years ago, the US EPA was brought in to clean up the bulk contamination. Since that time trespassing became common. Thieves entered with regularity to continue harvesting metal for scrap. Thrill seekers climb to the top of buildings just for fun. Weeds and brush grew so large that people made jokes about the “Pillsbury Wildlife Sanctuary” in northeast Springfield. And, as a community, our hearts ached for several days in October of 2019 when a newsworthy dog made its way to the top of the silos barking for help.

Shortly after the dog incident a community movement developed to help resolve the protracted community challenge of the Old Pillsbury Mills. Volunteers from throughout the area studied the issue. Community meetings were held. Recommendations were given to local leaders. A reasonable 5-year plan was developed to remove the Old Pillsbury Mills structures and prepare the 18-acre site for redevelopment. Moving Pillsbury Forward is now a community based not-for-profit that continues to lead the project.

I am often asked “What are the next steps?” The answer: Have patience while the court process plays out and be prepared to help when the legal dust cloud eventually settles. Not a savory answer for anyone. Then again, neither is the reality of living with the blight that is the Old Pillsbury Mills. Here is what I know…Moving Pillsbury Forward will keep pushing this issue forward with resolve…our community is worth the effort. We appreciate your support and patience.

Chris Richmond
President, Moving Pillsbury Forward, NFP
pillsburyproject.org

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Pillsbury Project Update: What Moving Forward Looks Like

Friends,

Moving Pillsbury Forward continues to work on behalf of the community to acquire and redevelop the largest single blighted property in our city. We remain focused and determined to provide a solution that is reasonable for the surrounding neighborhoods and greater Springfield community. It is the right thing to do!

Patience continues to be a primary theme of the Pillsbury project as we work toward acquisition of the property. The legal entanglements and more than a dozen attorneys involved have proven to be a formidable challenge. Progress is difficult to measure when you’re mired down in the nuances of legal liability and environmental law.

What we know for certain is that everyone involved in the Pillsbury project is learning about brownfield redevelopment. Our community capacity to deal with issues related to contaminated properties is increasing. Policy discussions involving prevention of future situations like Pillsbury are taking place. This is what moving forward looks like currently.

Moving forward also looks like Pillsbury neighborhood improvement. Since April, Moving Pillsbury Forward has had a strategic focus on environmental health and improvement within the Pillsbury neighborhood. Vacant lots and houses have been catalogued and prioritized for receiving needed attention. Community groups and volunteers have cleaned up over 20 lots and multiple alleyways in the neighborhood. City of Springfield Public Works has contributed with brush, bulky items, and general waste removal. City leaders have been supportive.

Moving Pillsbury Forward appreciates having the support of the entire Springfield community as we continue with our efforts on the Pillsbury project. Partnerships and persistence will get this done!

Chris Richmond
President, Moving Pillsbury Forward, NFP
pillsburyproject.org

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Pillsbury Project Update: Funding, Cleanup Day, & New Website!

Friends,

Redevelopment of the Pillsbury Mills property is closer to happening thanks to many of our supporters in the community.  We are continuing efforts at working through the legal entanglements that currently impede project progress.  Funding from private sources in the community has advanced this aspect of the project significantly.  A big THANK YOU to those who have helped in this endeavor.

Moving Pillsbury Forward recently participated in a Pillsbury neighborhood clean-up day.  On April 22 we partnered with the Pillsbury Neighborhood Association and SIU School of Medicine.  Over 40 medical students participated in street and alley clean-ups throughout the neighborhood.  It was a beautiful day for this environmental health initiative.  An impressive amount of refuse was collected and disposed of in coordination with the City of Springfield Public Works Department.

We know that the abandoned Pillsbury Mills property has a negative impact on the environmental health of the surrounding neighborhood.  Vacant lots and abandoned houses in the neighborhood have a similar negative impact.  To grapple with these lots and houses, we have inventoried them and begun clean-ups.  There are 40 city owned lots in the eight square block area.  There are over 20 vacant/abandoned houses in the same area.  In the coming weeks we will be utilizing volunteers and coordinating with city officials to improve the current situation.  Please, consider how you, or your organization, can help in this worthy project.

Lastly, we have re-established a website in support of the Pillsbury Project.  The site includes: the mission and purpose for Moving Pillsbury Forward, NFP,  Pillsbury site history, contact information, and much more.

Our new web link is: pillsburyproject.org

O3 Internet Consulting did fantastic work in building the site.  Thank you! 

Chris Richmond
President, Moving Pillsbury Forward, NFP
pillsburyproject.org

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Nothing Says Lovin’ Like Somethin’ From the Oven: Pillsbury in Springfield

Lincoln Library hosted Mike Kienzler discussing the turbulent history of the former Springfield Pillsbury Plant in Springfield IL. Photo credit Lincoln Library.

Lincoln Library, the public library in Springfield, IL hosted this virtual event on February 3, 2021.

Mike Kienzler, former reporter and editor with the State Journal-Register and founding editor of SangamonLink.org, online encyclopedia of the Sangamon County Historical Society, discussed the turbulent history of the former Springfield Pillsbury Plant.

Residents, former employees of Pillsbury in Springfield, their family members and others joined in this informative and interesting discussion.

https://www.lincolnlibrary.info/events/nothing-says-lovin-somethin-oven-pillsbury-springfield

We hope to post a video of the event when Lincoln Library releases it.

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Vacant sites create opportunities for redevelopment

Former city fire marshal Chris Richmond now leads Moving Pillsbury Forward, a group seeking to facilitate reuse of the former plant.

Built just before the Great Depression, Pillsbury Mills employed 1,500 people in its heyday. Producing flour and a variety of baking mixes, it was an anchor of the northeast Springfield neighborhood that bears its name. Following declines in the 1980s, the mill was sold to Cargill in 1991, closing permanently in 2000. Though the property was listed as an active mill, no buyers emerged, and the property was sold to a series of scrappers, ultimately resulting in a prison sentence for one of the current owners after it was revealed he hired workers to cut out asbestos-laden material for disposal in a landfill without adhering to any environmental or safety regulations.

In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency got involved, spending millions of dollars for an emergency clean-up. It was at this time that Chris Richmond, then the fire marshal for the City of Springfield, became the city’s point person for the Pillsbury Mills cleanup, becoming familiar with the mill, as well as the people in the surrounding neighborhood.

After Richmond’s retirement from the city, he decided to get involved in the redevelopment of the dormant plant, putting together a working group known as Moving Pillsbury Forward (MPF). After holding a series of meetings with consultants as well as people from the neighborhood, the group decided the best way forward was to form a nonprofit. “What we have,” states Richmond, “is an 18-acre site that needs leveled and cleared, and we need local community and government support to get that accomplished on the front end.”

Richmond reasons that once the site is brought down to level ground, it clears the biggest hurdle that developers face in making the site worth reinvestment. Though MPF has sought ideas big and small for the site, the most likely is affordable housing, though light industrial and mixed use have also been mentioned.

Read the full story at SpringfieldBusinessJournal.com…

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Nonprofit works toward demolition of the old Pillsbury Mills plant in Springfield

[Community] members formed the organization Moving Pillsbury Forward. The president of the organization, Chris Richmond, said Moving Pillsbury Forward was created with a clear goal in mind.

“We’re working toward the clearing of the property, and preparing it for re- development,” Richmond said. “This looks like rust belt America, and it needs removed from our town.”

The plant has sat vacant for more than 20 years.

“About a third of it has been demolished. All of the more expensive metals have been removed and scraped out of it,” Richmond said. “[What’s left] is about 500,000 square feet of hollowed out buildings and silos that have no function moving forward.”

In the past few years, the organization has made some headway. Moving Pillsbury Forward has officially become a nonprofit.

“There are legal entanglements on the front end of this project,” Walsh said. “Once we get beyond that, we’ve had experts on site, and they are estimating the overall project costs to clear the 18-acres would be somewhere between $8 million and $12 millions.”

Richmond said the property has deteriorated too far and is a hazard to the community.

“The U.S. EPA came in to clean up the bulk of the asbestos and other contaminants that were on site,” Richmond said. “Most of that got taken care of in 2017, but it still remains. That silver coating on the silo has low level asbestos.”

With more than 12,000 people living within one mile of the old plant, Richmond said the plant needs to be torn down.

Read the full article and watch the news clip at WANDTV.com…

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Group Seeks To Acquire Pillsbury Mills Site With Eye Toward Demolition

A non-profit group says its goal is to acquire title to the abandoned Pillsbury Mills site… and then serve as the centralized point to line up state and federal grants in hopes of eventually demolishing the vacant structure and developing the property.

Moving Pillsbury Forward says the dilapidated factory is an eyesore that is causing property values to fall and adding to poverty and other problems in the surrounding neighborhood. Group president Chris Richmond says there are various legal entanglements to sort out rightful ownership, back taxes, and other issues that are hindering his group’s efforts.

Read the full article at WMAY.com…

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An update on Moving Pillsbury Forward

Joey McLaughlin gets an update on the now not for profit organization, Moving Pillsbury Forward from organizer Chris Richmond.

Listen to it at WTAX.com…

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Cleanup Of Pillsbury Neighborhood Planned

The group that eventually hopes to see the old Pillsbury Mills plant demolished is trying to at least spruce up the area around it a bit.

The Pillsbury Mills Neighborhood Association, City of Springfield Department of Public Works, and Moving Pillsbury Forward are teaming up for a neighborhood cleanup.

Read the full story at WMAY.com…

Clean Up Volunteers
Moving Pillsbury Forward Board of Directors - Chris Richmond and Polly Poskin
Chris Richmond & Polly Poskin