New Tulsa city councilor Blake Ewing is creating a task force to better embrace business and tourism opportunities along Route 66 in town, the Tulsa World reported today.
“There’s Route 66 travel maps that bypass Tulsa,” he said with frustration. “Motorists hop on Interstate 44 at Catoosa to cut through the city and then reconnect with Route 66 from there.”
Many leaders have championed Arkansas River development in recent years, with Route 66 (tracking along on 11th Street) falling by the wayside, Ewing said.
“I’m not trying to usurp river momentum,” he said. “I’m excited about that, too. But to me, this is lower-hanging fruit. It’s here and it’s underutilized. We don’t have to put water in it to be successful.”
Some nuggets from the story:
- The task force would include businesses along Tulsa’s Route 66 and city officials.
- Ideas include tax-increment financing to create new development along the Mother Road.
- Ewing would like federal Brownfield grants to clean up dilapidated properties.
- He wants a fund that would buy neglected properties and turn them into meeting sites for car clubs.
- Ewing also wants a grant program that would encourage Route 66 businesses to upgrade their signs to neon, thus providing more of a Mother Road atmosphere.
The lure of traveling Route 66 by car is powerful to domestic and foreign tourists and continues to grow, he said.
“A lot of people falsely think it’s about pure nostalgia,” he said.
“But it’s much more than poodle skirts, cheeseburgers, James Dean and ’57 Chevys. Those are just a small slice of the pie.
The story also mentions the extensive public-works projects along Route 66 that have been funded by the Vision 2025 sales tax.
The story neglects to mention the Admiral Place alignment of Route 66, which also went through much of downtown from 1926 to 1932. The Route 66 resources on that alignment aren’t as rich as the better-known 11th Street path. But the Admiral Place portion does contain the historic Circle Cinema, Hank’s Hamburgers, Ann’s Bakery, the sprawling and often-bizarre Great American Flea Market, and a few other choice attractions. It shouldn’t be ignored.
Also, as a Tulsa resident, I’m extremely impressed with Ewing’s businesses and the dignified way he conducted himself during his city council campaign. He’s an energetic Tulsa booster. The ideas he’s presented about Route 66 are sound, and I’m thrilled he’s on the City Council.