Wally Kennedy: Opening of new Braum's at 26th and Main in offing

·5 min read

Jan. 22—Whenever I drive by 26th and Main streets, I have to smile. Watching over the past year the construction of a new Braum's from the ground up is creating a sense of anticipation.

With each passing day, the contractors are getting closer and closer to the final punch list of details that must be completed before the restaurant can open. It's getting close.

A Braum's spokeswoman, Amanda Beuchaw, told me this week that "pending any changes, we are slated to open March 1." What a welcome addition this will be to the lineup of restaurants along South Main Street.

It's also another positive step for the ongoing, but painfully slow redevelopment of this part of the tornado zone.

This Braum's restaurant will have just over 5,600 square feet of space with 2,000 square feet dedicated to a fresh market. The market will feature more than 100 meat, fruit, vegetable and dairy products. The restaurant's dine-in area will have seating for about 76 guests. There are two drive-thru lanes.

This Braum's does not look like the two Braum's that exist on the north and south ends of Range Line Road. I asked Beuchaw about that.

"The design is like most of our new models," she said. "It is much more attractive and sleek than previous models."

Braum's is hiring for the new store. Beuchaw said job fair events are planned in the days ahead. If you are interested in a job, here is the link to apply: https://careers.braums.com/events.

Braum's restaurants specialize in hamburgers and sandwiches as well as frozen yogurt and ice cream. Braum's serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Most of the food products sold at Braum's are processed or manufactured directly by the company. The company is vertically integrated from the ground up. It does not operate stores outside of a 300-mile radius of its home dairy farm in Tuttle, Oklahoma.

The first Braum's store opened in 1968. The newest location, which opened in October at McKinney, Texas, brings the total of Braum's stores in operation to 300. All stores are located in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Arkansas.

The tract of land at 26th and Main streets was once home to a grocery store that later would become a sports bar, J-Town, and a thrift store. Braum's acquired the property not long after the 2011 tornado through a deal arranged, in part, by David Glenn, a local commercial real estate agent.

The landfill

Whenever I drive by 34th and Main streets, I have to frown. The emergence of a massive demolition landfill on South Main Street has not been a pleasure to watch. The fact that it is now in its eighth year makes it even more distressing. At the rate this project is progressing, it could take another eight years for it to wrap up.

I, like so many others who live in the south part of Joplin, have looked the other way. But Karen Conrad, in a recent letter to the editor of this newspaper, asked the questions that many of us are asking.

"Talk about an eyesore! I can't for the life of me wonder why someone hasn't asked about what the heck that is supposed to be or even why on earth it is there," she wrote. "... Can someone, anyone, explain what it is and why it is there for all to see? For this local, it is an embarrassment!"

So I called up Conrad to ask her if anyone had responded to her questions. The answer was no, but it gave me an opportunity to talk to her about what is happening at the former site of Capri Motel.

The landfill is part of the South Main Community Improvement District. It is a tax increment financing district that was approved by the City Council in 2015. Tax increment financing involves using a portion of future revenues from property and sales taxes to reimburse the developers for some development expenses.

The plan for this TIF, which is still active, proposes the redevelopment of approximately 83 acres in an area on both sides of South Main Street, south of 32nd Street and north of Interstate 44, at an estimated cost of $52.5 million. The area would eventually offer mixed-use retail, commercial space and housing. Improvements necessary to redevelop the area include the construction of streets, utility improvements, sidewalks and stormwater improvements.

The TIF was opposed, for the most part, by residents living in the impacted neighborhoods of Stapleton, Oak Ridge and Plaza Drive. It also was opposed by the Joplin Board of Education.

Dust problems have been experienced by the people who live along East 34th Street and downwind of the site. Who knows what's in that dust?

Residents there have complained about dump trucks rolling through the neighborhood at high speeds. The problem led to increased police patrols in that neighborhood. I ask you: Is that an efficient use of our law enforcement resources?

The landfill is filling in a deep valley on the west side of where the Capri existed.

What's bothersome about this is that no one was told that a landfill like this would exist at this site for eight years in connection with this TIF proposal. I might have missed it, but I don't recall seeing a public notice about a hearing for a permit to operate a landfill at this site.

Recently, the City Council adopted some goals that members viewed as Joplin's most important. Among them were addressing declining neighborhoods and the need to improve community appearance, including public properties maintained by the city. Council members talked about a need to improve the appearance of the city at its gateways, along its major corridors such as South Main Street, in the downtown area and at public facilities to make them more inviting.

This is a welcome development and long overdue. But there is so much that needs to be done, where do you begin? You need to look no further than 34th and Main.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.