Medical student’s family invests time & money in Enos Park renovations
By Steve Combs, former president, Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association
In 2005, my wife Diane and I moved to Springfield and bought the home at 821 North 5th Street, an Italianate
structure built in Enos Park in 1881. We converted it into a 3,000 sq. feet duplex, with my son, Andy, and his wife, Candida, on the second floor; Diane and I lived on the first. Andy and Candida lived there through his three years of medical school. Two grandchildren were born and joined us in the family home during that time. The kids moved to New Jersey for Andy’s residency in 2008. He’s now a pediatrician in Hixson, Tenn.
Dr. Rik Constance [then SIU Associate Dean of Students] had taken a chance on Andy, a potential doctoral student who had herded buffalo in Colorado and followed Native Americans through the Midwest. Andy was 27, a graduate of the University of Chicago and had attended the University of Minnesota and the University of Colorado, primarily to wrestle. He earned a master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. He had already lived a whole life before most doctoral candidates had entered graduate school.
We liked Springfield and thought Enos was full of potential. In 2006, I was elected president of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, which formed back in 1989. My primary goal at the time was to bring as many organizations and groups under the umbrella of the association as possible. We worked closely with the Springfield Police Department, Public Works, City Council and the mayor. We worked well with all four but found our greatest resources were the people of the neighborhood, churches, schools, historic institutions and hospitals.
In 2010, with the help of many dedicated volunteers and board members, we designed a master plan for the neighborhood. It led to our ability to acquire city, state and federal grants to improve the look and structure of Enos Park’s homes, while trying to be efficient and maintain historic integrity. Before demolishing any of the older homes, we removed the usable parts and pieces (windows, doors, trim, railing, etc.) and sold them for new renovation work.
The plan included the creation of a land bank and ambitious improvements to Enos Park: the renovation of Gehrmann Park, installation of historic street lights and pedestrian lights along 5th and 6th Streets, new sidewalks on four major thoroughfares, planting 250 trees in the boulevards and decorative planters at each of the main entry points to the neighborhood.
We worked with Edwards Place and its neighborhood outreach program, the McClernand grade school, the two neighborhood churches (Kumler and Third Presbyterian) and members of the medical district (St. John’s, Memorial and SIU School of Medicine).
The development of a community garden at Edwards Place became one of the greatest drivers for neighborhood involvement. It grew to include gardens on two other large sites in Enos, on properties secured with grants.
In 2012 we partnered with Michael Dunbar, a nationally renowned sculptor, to create a sculpture garden in one of the large lots we acquired using TIF funds. (We were able to acquire nearly 125 properties over 10 years.) The medical students played a major role in preparing the lot for the planting of trees and flowers and for the placement of the sculptures.
We also started events to celebrate our activities, such as an all-day food and music event around our sculpture garden presentation called “Rock the Block,” a Historic Homes Tour of eight to 15 historic homes and our summer cookout to celebrate the neighborhood.
Looking back, we are proud of the many things that we were able to help accomplish in a relatively brief time in Enos Park. It went by very quickly. It’s encouraging to think that it made the community healthier.
Learn more about the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association.