GALENA, Kan. —
Bob LaTurner, who has lived in Galena his entire life, said he’s impressed with the recently completed streetscaping work along Main Street.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “I never thought I’d see Main Street in Galena look like it does now.”
LaTurner owns LaTurner’s Route 66 Barber Shop at Seventh and Main streets. He said it appears that the town has turned a corner, with Downstream Casino Resort to the south and Orthopaedic Specialists of the Four States building a specialty hospital on the east end of town.
“It’s a good time to be here,” he said.
The streetscape project, on Main Street from Fourth Street to Eighth Street and also a block west of Main Street along Seventh Street, includes new, wider sidewalks with access for the disabled; new curbs and gutters; period streetlights; a sound system; and iron benches and matching decorative planters and trash cans.
Mayor Dale Oglesby said that with Ortho Four-States investing in the town, the City Council wanted to step up and do its part in making Galena presentable.
“It’s absolutely changed the perception of what you see downtown,” he said.
Oglesby said he’s seeing activity downtown that he hasn’t seen in years, including people going for walks along Main Street, sitting on the benches and talking, and meeting at the gazebo in Pappy Litch Park on Main Street.
The project resembles the look of Main Street in Joplin, Mo.
“The fingerprints of Joplin are all over this,” Oglesby said. “We feel like they did a great job. You know, Joplin is our largest suburb.”
Enthusiasm for restoring the downtown is spreading, according to Oglesby, who pointed out a 19th century building at Eighth and Main streets that new owners are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore.
Another proponent of the Main Street work is Carissa Christie, pharmacist at Med-X drug on Main Street.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she said. “I’ve had more comments from people about it. It kind of looks spruced up. It’s definitely made people take more pride in their storefronts.”
Not everyone is excited about the project. Sonny Webster, a worker at the True Value Hardware store, said he’s seen Galena’s economy go only one way: downhill.
“It looks good,” he said. “But it seems like a lot of money to me.”
The project had a budget of $680,000, including a $340,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Oglesby acknowledged that the city overspent the project budget, but he said this week that he didn’t have the final figures yet.
Kathy and Danny Anderson are planning to open their Streetcar Station Coffee Shop at 515 S. Main St. within a month. Kathy Anderson said they had always planned to open a business in Galena after they both retired, but their opening has been influenced by the timing of the streetscape project.
“It’s better than I could have ever imagined,” she said of the work.
The shop will feature a variety of coffee drinks, plus cupcakes, muffins and other desserts. The owners hope to attract Route 66 tourists from Europe, Asia and elsewhere.
“I think it’s exciting,” Danny Anderson said. “I think it’s showing a renewed interest in Galena and in what the town can do.”
GALENA MAYOR DALE OGLESBY said the second phase of the city’s streetscaping project is being planned along Main Street from Fourth Street to Front Street, and another block or two west along Seventh Street. If a grant application is approved, construction will take place next spring.