The City of Tulsa is requesting proposals from developers to build a long-awaited Route 66 museum and visitors center on the banks of the Arkansas River, reported the Tulsa World today.
The interpretive center and entertainment complex is to be built on city land across the street from the East Meets West bronze sculpture at the intersection of Southwest Boulevard and Riverside.
The City is investing $6.5 million in the project, including $1.5 million in Vision 2025 funds and $5 million in third-penny sales tax revenue.
The deadline for submitting RFPs is March 5, 2014.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett made the surprise announcement today during a dedication of the “Cultural Crossroads” of 11th Street (aka Route 66) and Yale Avenue. Michael Wallis, author of the best-selling “Route 66: The Mother Road” and chairman of the Route 66 Alliance, said in an email:
It took the crowd by surprise. I was called forward to the podium and I have never been more pleased to talk to the smiling crowd before me. The Alliance will get a permanent home.
More about the development proposal can be downloaded in PDF form here.
The museum, often described as the Route 66 Experience, is nearly 10 years in the making. The Vision 2025 sales tax for county improvements, including Route 66, passed in 2003, and the museum project endured a few setbacks — namely higher-than-estimated cost, a series of tight city budgets, and a deep recession that started in 2008.
One may question the timing of the announcement, because Bartlett faces re-election next month and could use any sort of good news to boost his chances. But I’ll take any long-overdue good news about the museum, no matter when it occurs.
UPDATE: The Tulsa World updated its story:
The development could have restaurants, retail space and even a hotel but must include space for a Route 66 interpretive center, Whitaker said.
“We are trying to be broad in our statement because we want them (the developer) to own it, manage it and maintain it,” Whitaker said. “We will want a reasonable square footage for the interpretive space because this is to draw tourism both nationally and internationally. […]
The city would retain ownership of the property and lease it to the developer, Whitaker said.
This public-private development is similar to what Whitaker has said the city would probably seek. But now. the city has film financial numbers for the project.
(An artist’s rendering of Tulsa’s Route 66 museum, circa 2003)