‘Spirit of 76’ Master Plan revealed, proposes $80 million revitalization of 76


Thursday, May 1, 2014

A master plan has been unveiled for Branson’s Spirit of 76 project, featuring updated renderings and concepts, and bringing the city one step closer to its goal of revitalizing the famous Highway 76 corridor.

The public was invited to attend a meeting for the City of Branson’s Highway 76 revitalization project at the Factory Merchants Mall, Tuesday. The Spirit of 76 Team is led by Cook, Flatt & Strobel Engineers (CFS), which is made up of Engineers, Architects, Planners and Redevelopment Specialists who presented the Corridor Master Plan Concept for Highway 76 improvements.

The team has been tasked with the mission of providing concepts, plans and designs “to improve aesthetics, enhance mobility and foster an authentic identity along 5 miles of Highway 76, from east of U.S. 65 to Shepherd of the Hills Expressway.”

“Based on our strategic plan this is one of the most important projects we have at this time,” said Alderman and Project Chairman, Rick Todd. “Highway 76 is the first thing people see and the last thing they see. It needs to be one of the best things they see.”
Representatives from the New Spirit of 76 project team, MoDOT representatives, and city staff attended the open forum meeting to answer questions concerning the project. Design concepts filled the room in order for citizens and business owners to view the proposed improvements. Vendors showcasing lighting concepts, options for walkways, benches, trash receptacles, and more were also on hand.
The project team has been pursuing concepts that embrace multi-modal transportation, pedestrian promenades, landscaping, utility relocations and identity enhancements. Through the input received during steering committee meetings, stakeholder meetings and Board of Alderman meetings, the project team has researched, analyzed, and created design concepts in order to deliver a project that will be embraced by businesses and citizens, Todd said.

“Our goals for the project are to contribute to the success of existing businesses, attract new businesses and improve auto and pedestrian traffic,” Todd added. “The more public input we can get, the more likely we will achieve our goals.”

Tuesday, CFS consultant and project manager Sabin Yanez addressed the media and the crowd who gathered with much interest to learn more about the exciting project.

“Let’s play on 76,” Yanez said, as he opened up the presentation by introducing other members of the team who are involved in the project planning.

“We’ve spent a good year working on this project on behalf of the city, developing this master plan that we’re rolling out for you today. When we were first brought on board by the city, the board of aldermen and the mayor made one message were very specific to us — whatever we look for in the improvements to 76, it’s needs to be uniquely Branson. It should not have the feel that it could be Anywhere, USA.”
Yanez said with that thought in mind, the team walked the area numerous times and consulted many of the business owners to get a feel of how the strip operates.

“Our goal was to embrace the heritage that exists here in the Ozark region,” Yanez said, noting the values, spirit, and history that linger in the area. The task at hand is, “how to create new opportunities to bring those forward even more so, and give you this chance to really explode and grow.”

He continued, “Branson is more than a highway. It represents great energy and a great sense of fun. The scope of our project is really to transform 76 Country Boulevard into a complete street project,” he said.

The “Complete Streets” design sets out to create a multi-modal corridor to promote safe and efficient movement of people by car, walking, trolley or bicycling. The transformation will encourage more “stay-time” for visitors, he said.

Yanez said the message they want to send to tourists and residents is that 76 can become a destination unto itself. Rather than stopping for one show or one attraction, the entire five-mile stretch will become more accessible allowing families an opportunity to spend their entire day enjoying the amenities of 76.

“Imagine this five miles from 65 to Shepherd of the Hills Expressway as a linear amusement park where you can go, park, shop, enjoy entertainment, and spend the day on 76,” he added.

One way to accomplish this it to build an attractive promenade, a wide thoroughfare — a 15 foot sidewalk buffered by landscaping and greenery — which allows active transportation when people are out of their cars. The team is also proposing development of attractive pedestrian crossings. Currently, there are only three pedestrian crossings in the five-mile stretch, he said. The plan also calls for placement of beautiful landscape and streetscape features.

“It truly is about the tourist experience. You have over 7 ½ million visitors come to this community a year. We’re looking at these improvements in the master plan, and ultimately in the design and construction, as a tourist conduit to play, to fun, to attractions, to shopping, to lodging,” he said.

Yanez said the team has identified five prominent themes that continue to show themselves — Branson Heritage, Ozark Nature and Water, Music, Patriotism, and Family Fun. At one point, it had been considered to break up the corridor and identify separate sections or “themed districts.” However, the team has since decided that it made more sense to blend in these themes along the corridor will the overall improvements over time.

For example, “Imagine these themes showing up in your light poles, in your pedestrian lighting, in your trash receptacles, in your park benches, in your promenades themselves, in your crosswalks, and in your trolley stops,” he said.

The goal is to enhance and amplify what is best about Branson in order to create positive energy on 76 Country Boulevard.
Yanez said traffic congestion along 76 has also been discussed. “We know you have congestion, but actually in a tourist area, there is a fine line of balance where traffic congestion is good. We believe the three-lane roadway can work effectively with all the components of our plan,” he said.

The beautification plan also looks at the removal of overhead utilities and relocating them underground or behind the scenes in order to improve sightlines.

Another design element in the master plan includes “gateways” to announce to people “you’ve arrived at 76.”
“Currently, most come into Branson on Highway 65, but there’s really no welcoming moment. The idea to create gateways that say ‘you’re here, come have fun with us,’ is part of our plan.”

The team predicts that the project could be completed within six years, and estimates the cost of the overall project to be around $80 million, broken down into 13 construction phases.

Yanez said the master plan will be presented to The Board of Aldermen next week, who will then choose what will be constructed based upon available revenue. The first phase could possibly begin in 2015.

According to the Spirit of 76 website, a combination of revenue streams and programs will be employed to cover costs. Currently, there is about $15 million set-aside from the City’s tourism tax. Yanez said there is also an opportunity to work with the Missouri Department of Transportation to access funds. There may be other State and Federal grants, loan or tax incentive programs that could be employed, he said.

For more information, visit the Spirit of 76 website at http://bransonspiritof76.com.The Taney County Partnership seeks the involvement of area businesses and individuals to lead the development initiatives of the communities it serves. For more information, please visit contact Jonas Arjes at (417) 334‐4084 ext. 326 or jarjes@taneycountypartnership.com.