Route 66 in the News

Bel-Aire Motel Ruled Out?

2012-08-14 08:38:38

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The possibility of a ROUTE 66 VISITORS CENTER and MUSEUM is getting another look in Springfield; it isn’t likely, however, that it would be on the site of the Bel-Aire Motel.

A group of tourism, city and planning officials has been meeting informally about the idea in recent weeks, including an analysis by the Springfield-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission of potential sites.

“We’ve been talking about what we need to do, and we’re down from six concepts to two ‘what abouts?’” said Fred Puglia, executive director of the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Puglia pointed out that Joliet, Pontiac and Litchfield all have Route 66 visitors centers. It would be only natural for Springfield to have one of its own, given the city’s ties to the historic road, he said.

While he declined to discuss the two potential sites — other than both are on Route 66 — Puglia said the group pretty much has ruled out the Bel-Aire. The late Mayor Tim Davlin proposed in 2008 that the city buy the residential motel at 2636 S. Sixth St. and convert it to a Route 66 visitors center and museum.

There was no money, however, and the motel has since been cited by the city for hundreds of building-code violations.

“The exploratory committee is a byproduct of the Bel-Aire Motel,” said Puglia.

Another challenge has not changed since 2008. That is finding the money to convert an existing building or construct a new one.

Puglia said the group hopes to raise enough money for at least a feasibility study, “and that would give us more leverage to apply for grants.”

~Tim Landis,


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