SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – The Plaza Shopping Center, situated at Sunshine Street and Glenstone Avenue, was once heralded as a premier retail hub in the state of Missouri.
However, a recent gathering of more than 20 concerned business owners reveals a stark narrative of challenges that have begun to tarnish the area’s reputation. These challenges have prompted urgent calls for solutions.
“I believe this was probably one of the best shopping centers in the state of Missouri at one time,” expressed Joe Cooper, owner of Cooper’s Clippers, encapsulating the sentiment of many business owners present.
The meeting, held Monday, was convened to address the pressing issue of homelessness at The Plaza, which has been affecting local businesses. Cooper and others pointed out the problem of several 24-hour gambling businesses operating in The Plaza.
“I don’t understand why the city is allowing gambling, and gambling is supposed to be illegal in the state of Missouri,” added Cooper, expressing a perplexing concern shared by many in attendance.
In June 2021, Troop D of the Missouri State Highway Patrol conducted a series of coordinated raids across Springfield, targeting gambling machines at gas stations and internet cafes, including one within The Plaza.
Carl Nicholas Mertz is the operator of Dings and Things, a business situated behind The Plaza.
Mertz emphasized the security measures put in place to safeguard his business and employees from ongoing issues, such as prostitution, drug use, theft attempts, and suspicious individuals roaming the area.
During the meeting, female-run businesses expressed their concerns about feeling unsafe due to the crowds these businesses attracted.
Springfield City Councilman Matthew Simpson attended the gathering and voiced his unease about the plight of small businesses grappling with these challenges. He pledged to bring the concerns raised during the meeting to the attention of the city council.
“These are business owners who have invested in our community, who do great things for our community, and they deserve our city’s support,” asserted Simpson, underscoring the importance of addressing these issues to uphold the well-being of both businesses and the community.
In response to the concerns raised, the Springfield Police Department issued a statement:
There is a regular police presence in the area as part of regular, uniformed patrol. The previous increased presence at the Plaza Shopping Center was a directed patrol effort to address specific criminal complaints that lasted a prescribed amount of time. When it concluded, we moved on to other areas of note. Any future directed patrol efforts (provided by officers working overtime) would be the result of ongoing conversations with business and property owners and the police department on how to best address their concerns.
Today’s meeting addressed issues but also brought up solutions. The group discussed the idea of having a plaza watch system, all hiring security together, better signage, and ensuring everyone in the plaza has a letter of enforcement.
The group of business owners will meet again in two weeks.
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