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From the famous show-studded Highway 76 strip to the Branson Landing just a stone’s throw down the street, businesses in Branson’s historic downtown district have never had a problem keeping customers. In order to keep up with tourism in future years, the City of Branson is investing $4 million dollars to upgrade the downtown area. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has details.
Branson Economic Developer Garrett Anderson says people can look at Springfield’s recent downtown renovations to see what Branson city leaders have in mind for their own downtown area.
“The proposal for downtown Branson is just to move block by block and work on all the things you see at the street level. You’ve got the sidewalks, your tree plantings, your benches and trashcans. We’ll work with the signage and with different businesses and talk to each of them about their store fronts and what kind of reinvestment they might be able to make.”
One major element these funds will cover is upgrades to ground water lines and storm water drainage. Most of the water lines in that area, according to Anderson, were put in many years ago. Some might be made of wood. He says they would hate to install brand new sidewalks only to dig them up later due to a water leak underground.
“This year, we’re going to work on primarily the design elements, do some public input, get a feel for what the downtown businesses and stakeholders would like to see in their downtown, and then put the engineering people to work and really get the design stuff ready so next year we can break ground and start working on it one second at a time throughout the downtown area.”
The area Anderson is talking about sits adjacent to Branson Landing, just up the hill, around Main Street and Commercial. Stores and businesses in that area, like Dick's 5 & 10, the Branson Post Office, City Hall, Main Street Flea Market and the Branson Café have resided there as neighbors for years.
“We’re not a super old town. A lot of towns, like Springfield, are much older than that, but there are a dozen or more buildings downtown that were around still 100 years ago. Those are important to preserve and accent as we work on our place here. We don’t want to lose that historic character that the downtown has.”
They have very little “chain” restaurants and stores downtown, but more quote, “mom and pop” shops which, Anderson says, tourists seem to like. He says those stores are always busy, with plenty of foot traffic.
“The sidewalks and the businesses down there are very vibrant; you have a lot of traffic and a lot people. That’s part of the money that we want to invest this time around, is try to help with those issues of having too many people and too many cars and working with how we can improve the traffic flow both for the pedestrian and for the cars.”
The existing transportation tax for city residents will be used to fund this project. Anderson says city leaders are close to choosing a design firm, which will be announced in September.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.