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City, West Central Neighborhood to break ground for Route 66 Plaza Streetscape

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The City of Springfield and the West Central Neighborhood Alliance will ceremoniously break ground for the Route 66 Plaza Streetscape at College Street and Broadway Avenue at 9 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 10.

The groundbreaking is the prelude to a full weekend of celebrating Springfield’s claim to fame as the Birthplace of Route 66, with 2016 festival Aug. 12-14.

A week of extraordinary grand openings in downtown Springfield will culminate with the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival for three days on the weekend, including a parade and car show.

A week of extraordinary grand openings in downtown Springfield will culminate with the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival for three days on the weekend, including a parade and car show.

This project, expected to begin October 2016, will stretch along College Street
from the intersection of Broadway Avenue west to the Birthplace of Route 66Roadside Park. Planned improvements include a new pedestrian plaza at the
northwest corner of the intersection, crosswalks, ADA-compliant sidewalks,landscaping and street trees, decorative street lighting, utility improvements and on-street parking. It is funded through a federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant and the voter-approved 1/4-cent Capital Improvements Sales Tax.

During the 2015 festival, the City of Springfield’s Public Works and Planning departments, along with West Central Neighborhood Alliance residents, created a physical mock-up of what a streetscape and plaza might look like, including a clock tower, at College Street and Broadway Avenue east of the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park.

During the annual Give Ozarks campaign in May, the West Central Neighborhood Alliance donated $3,000 toward the clock tower project, which has an estimated cost of $55,000.

The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival began in 2010 as a West Central Neighborhood car show to fund-raise for improvements to the College Avenue portion of Springfield’s stretch of Route 66. In 2015, the festival had grown into a two-day car show and drew 23,000 people to downtown Springfield.

“Springfield has really come together to try to make our downtown great again. Embracing our Route 66 history is an important part of spotlighting authentic places and experiences in Springfield,” says Rusty Worley, former president of WCNA and executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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