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Route 66 News

Tulsa may encourage neon signs along Route 66

The city of Tulsa is working to set up a Route 66 neon-sign overlay district that would encourage the use and preservation of such signs.

The Frontier news site, based in Tulsa, had the details:

The city’s idea, patterned after a similar one in Albuquerque, N.M., is simple: make it easier to put up a neon sign along Route 66, and give business owners incentives to do so.

“There are a lot of businesses in Tulsa that would be interested in neon signage, but it’s very expensive compared to a plastic box that is backlit,” said Amy Brown, deputy chief of staff for Mayor G.T. Bynum. “So really what we are trying to say is, this sign is beneficial for your business, this sign is beneficial to raise the profile of Tulsa’s Route 66, and so we want to help defray some of the added expense.”

The discussions are in the early stages, Brown said, but the incentives being considered include loosening sign regulations to allow for more design and placement options; waiving permitting fees; and offering grants to help cover the cost of the signs.

The neon-sign overlay district is expected to cover all of Route 66 in Tulsa, except for the central business district, which prohibits such a design district.

Brown said city officials still must meet with business owners and industry officials before submitting the plan to the city council. The council, if it likes the plan, then would make recommendations to changes to the zoning commission.

Vision 2025 sales taxes has about $500,000 allocated for Route 66 preservation. Some of that money will be used for neon-sign grants, said Amanda DeCort, executive director of the Tulsa Foundation for Architecture and a member of the Route 66 Commission in Tulsa.

“We envision it to be a matching grant, so if a business owner can spend five grand, we can put in five grand so they have a really knockout, amazing new neon sign,” DeCort said. “And it is for neon, because it is a traditional medium, and we used to have a ton of it, and we have lost almost all of it.”

(Image of the El Rancho Grande restaurant’s neon sign in Tulsa along 11th Street, aka Route 66, by Tom Baddley via Flickr)

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