Route 66 in the News

Revamping Route 66 Sparks Interest

2012-02-12 13:10:55

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The city’s effort to revive a section of west College Street — part of the old Route 66 through the west side of town — has already inspired one local businessman to make an investment there.

Mark Cockrum recently bought the old Allen’s Pawn Shop building at 1031 W. College St. and plans to turn the 80-year-old structure into future retail space. It also has a small apartment that he’ll renovate and keep as a revenue generator.

He was busy last week replacing the building’s old wiring, working on new walls, updating the exterior and waiting for new windows to come in.

“I heard about the city’s plan, and it sparked some interest,” said Cockrum. “I looked at it and ended up buying the building.”

Cockrum said he likes the area’s historic connection to Route 66, at one time the major business route through Springfield and still a tourist draw for fans who drive the old route. He thinks other businesses might capitalize on the connection and turn College Street into a place people will again want to visit.

“I think it’s going to be a great addition for the city of Springfield,” Cockrum said. “And with the West Meadows (city park) project nearby, once that’s done, it will spark some interest in bigger investors taking a look at College Street.”

The city has held two public meetings, and plans to have five more, to gather input about ways to improve the College Street Corridor between Grant Avenue and Kansas Expressway. The meetings will continue through April and are intended to create a vision of what College Street and nearby Olive Street could look like in 20 years.

The project also is intended to inspire confidence in investors like Cockrum that the corridor is ripe for a rebirth.

The area has many run-down buildings and some pollution issues in the West Meadows park development area north of College Street. But it also has a rich history with its link to Route 66 — a road that connected Chicago and California through the nation’s heartland and was highlighted in a TV show and celebrated in singer Nat King Cole’s popular song "(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66."

Cockrum said he was encouraged by several other businesses nearby that already have improved their buildings.

“Bud’s Tire Shop just down the street, he’s done a nice job with that one. There are some other nice buildings . I’ve been going to the city’s public meetings, and I think they’re thinking it will be a mixture of apartments and commercial. I think getting it cleaned up will help.”

~Wes Johnson,


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