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Route 66 News

Springfield residents weigh in on improving Kearney Street

Rest Haven Court on Kearney Street, Springfield, Mo.

A few weeks ago, residents of Springfield, Missouri, filled out a survey in which the city asked what sort of improvements they wanted along the long-neglected Kearney Street corridor.

Kearney Street was a part of Route 66 and for many years was considered the “cruising capital of the world.”

St. Louis-based PGAV recently presented the survey’s results to the city council. According to a report from the Springfield News-Leader, residents said these were among the things they wanted on a revitalized Kearney Street:

  • Sit-down or Route 66-themed restaurants
  • Reviving cruising events
  • A microbrewery
  • Local or independently owned retailers
  • Family-friendly venues such as a bowling alley, a miniature golf course, a skating rink or a movie theater
  • Music venues at bars or restaurants
  • Better conditions for pedestrians and bicyclists

After being a happening place for decades, Kearney has devolved into a corridor with a bunch of fast-food restaurants, aging properties and little else.

The newspaper reported what the survey aims to do:

A team from PGAV has been working since November to assess the physical conditions of properties along Kearney, between Glenstone Avenue and Kansas Expressway. Team members also analyzed the housing and retail markets as well as gathered public feedback.

They will identify specific properties along the corridor that are best situated for successful development, then create a plan of how the city can incentivize and promote growth.

City Council allocated $100,000 to the study, out of money left over from a previous year’s budget.

Final recommendations from PGAV are expected in April.

Jenny Ryan, a project manager with PGAV, said something during the hearing about Route 66 that got my attention:

Ryan responded that interest in Route 66 from international visitors may continue, but overall she thinks its popularity will decrease over time.

“(Cruising) is not going to save your corridor,” Ryan said. “Do my kids care about Route 66? I don’t think so.”

I disagree the interest of Route 66 will fade. I’ve found over the years worldwide interest in the Route 66 — literal and figurative — continues to grow because it left such an indelible effect on popular culture.

And if Route 66 eventually becomes a National Historic Trail — as I expect — interest in the Mother Road will continue to grow.

(Image of the Rest Haven Court on Kearney Street in Springfield, Missouri, by Jim Grey via Flickr)

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3 thoughts on “Springfield residents weigh in on improving Kearney Street

  1. Darcy Olson

    Europeans are wacky for Rte 66. Spend your promo $ there advertising and cash in on Cars movies to attract the younger generation. Also pump the coming of age roadtrip to youth. Get out and see the country. Try another Woodstock type event

  2. Keith Z

    Obviously Ms Ryan has no clue as to how much tourist money is just driving down that street and not stopping to spend it let alone she doesn’t live on “that side of town” so my guess is she could care less. Run down areas that don’t look safe to stop, I just drive on thru since I’m driving a classic car when driving the Route. Towns that have cleaned up the area and kicked out the riff raff are reaping the rewards with tourism dollars. As far as it popularity decreasing, the road keeps increasing in popularity so even if would fade after 20 years, how much would an investment make over that time?

  3. Tonya Pike

    I was at the public event PGAV hosted to find out what the locals think is needed down the Kearney Street corridor that led to the presentation this posting is about.. Ms. Ryan and PGAV are from St. Louis. No comprehension of what “cruising” was in its heyday on Kearney (newspaper reporter interviewed me and couldn’t understand why you would want to drive up and down a street all night) or the significance of what Route 66 travelers or the locals might want or need down Kearney Street. Obviously, what was stated that night didn’t sink in either.

    Honestly, I don’t think anyone here gets how many foreign tourists pass thru Springfield every summer. It is not like there is a gate people go thru traveling Route 66 where we can quote exact numbers of how many travelers go here or there. They never believe me when I tell them how many times I get asked, why doesn’t Springfield care about Route 66? Why is the town so slow to promote 66?

    Springfield has come a very long way in realizing that Route 66 is a BIG part of this town’s history – but they still have a long way yet to go. Revitalizing College and Kearney streets are steps in the right directions but they must complete any revitalization plans that get made for any of it to be notable and start drawing in more traffic. There has to be something here first to get people to stop.

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