A champion for downtown Springfield

Lisa Clemmons Stott is the executive director of the non-profit organization, Downtown Springfield Incorporated or DSI, working on downtown revitalization. We spoke to Lisa about how her role has developed since she took it on less than a year ago, in December 2015 in fact. 

How has your role developed since you started the job? 
I haven’t been on the job a year yet, but as an organization, we are focused on downtown’s economic vitality, so I realized early on that we needed more capacity to do the important work of retail development and filling vacancies that complement our traditional roles in promotion and events management.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your role? 
Downtown is a community of entrepreneurs and creatives. It’s fulfilling to support their personal goals by working on a bigger vision that links everyone together and attracts outside interest.

What has been your greatest achievement to date, when it comes to DSI? 
I’m a somewhat impatient person, but I don’t think this is something you can answer within the first five years. I am proud of the direction we are moving, especially in the areas of hiring an urban planner, creating a partnership to manage the Old Capitol Farmers Market and selling one of our festivals so we could introduce a more retail-focused event.

What are you working on at the moment (that you can tell us about)? 
I’ll pick the activity that could literally bring together everyone in Sangamon County. The holidays are about family and home, and our historic downtown is the perfect place to celebrate the season and to snag the perfect gift. We’re planning the biggest kickoff yet for the 2017 Holiday Walks on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which is also Small Business Saturday. Downtown will host the Springfield Jaycees’ Twinkling Lights Parade, expanded carriage rides, Santa in the Old State Capitol, and a Holiday Windows Decorating Contest.  The Holiday Walks Committee might pull off a few more surprises before everything is officially announced. 

What is the five-year plan for DSI? 
We’re functioning more on a three-year plan; in 2018, DSI will celebrate its 25th year. By then, we will have streamlined our board governance so that we can be more nimble. We expect to have achieved more sustainable funding so that one or two bouts of bad weather during a festival do not knock us off our mission. And we intend to show progress on several of our key initiatives: a brand and corresponding marketing campaign for the district; a plan and matching incentives for filling the vacancies, with a few success stories to share; and the realization of at least one of our placemaking strategies. For example, Nathan Bishop, DSI’s program director has developed a great comprehensive plan to reinvigorate the Old State Capitol Plaza and make it a more family-friendly destination.

How can people get involved in DSI? 
It’s a critical time to make a difference downtown and we welcome new volunteers. More than half of our committee of volunteers are people who got involved recently. Whether your talents and time align with solving the hairier issues like parking, or helping to create one of our signature events, all you have to do is contact us and let us know your interests. 

How do you think your background/career has helped you in your current role? 
My background and mentor/peer network are blessedly diverse, with stints in both the non-profit and government sectors and then nearly four years of running my own consulting firm. Over the last decade, I found myself focusing more on economic and community development—and specifically, on the value of local, living economies. I brought those concepts to life here at home as the volunteer co-chair of the wonderful citizen committee tasked with implementing the recommendations in the Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) report. I am grateful because, although this is the hardest work I’ve ever done, I can’t imagine another path that would have better prepared me.

What are your immediate hopes for DSI and its role in the community? 
Remember the slogan, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen”? I hope that the voice of our downtown community gets stronger, clearer and even more respected so that when we advocate for a solution, the greater community embraces it.