By Wally Kennedy
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
There are still quite a few empty spaces in the tornado zone along Range Line Road, but the progress there has really been remarkable.
The east side was the first to redevelop. Now it’s happening on the west side.
The new Goodwill store at 2102 S. Range Line is scheduled to reopen in February. If the workers at the site continue at their current pace, they’ll beat that deadline.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 2020 Range Line, opened its new building this past week. For a car-rental business, the architecture of this structure is modest but very stylish.
Ground recently was broken for the return of The Big Nickel to the southwest corner of 20th Street and Range Line. That will fill a prominent empty space.
Across the street, the LongHorn Steakhouse is nearing completion. It plans to open in December. I have had one caller who expressed concern about the size of the building. They thought it might be too small, suggesting this restaurant might be doing a lot more business than it’s expecting. I think it might be bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. Regardless, it really fills that spot well.
If you go to the hill north of the restaurant and look south, you can see the outline of what eventually will be the Bel-Aire shopping center. It looks like several new storefronts are in the works. This is a good thing. Shopping centers are magnets for small franchises that fill specialty niches. They also are incubators for new businesses.
Farther north on the west side of Range Line is the new structure that will house Cici’s Pizza. It looks like it will be big enough to have multiple storefronts.
Now, compare all of that activity with the level of activity in the tornado zone on South Main Street. We have a new car wash going up, a Taco Bell is nearing completion, and a doctor’s office and a tax preparer’s office have opened. Some of the last eyesores have just been cleared away.
There are large expanses of South Main Street that have been inactive for months. Some still have storm debris on them.
The tendency to compare is only natural. But you are not comparing apples to apples. Before the tornado, Range Line was a vibrant commercial district. South Main, on the other hand, was a mix of private homes, restaurants, vacant lots, vacant buildings, some successful small businesses and some that were struggling.
What I have learned from a series of telephone calls over the past couple of weeks is that developers have slowly been putting these small pieces of property on South Main together to form larger tracts that can now be more easily developed. This was no easy task.
Other major property owners along South Main Street have successfully relocated their businesses. They are not planning to come back. Their land is now available for redevelopment. They are just waiting on that phone call where the caller says: “I’m interested in your property.’’
While these developments have been taking place behind the scenes, new neighborhoods have sprung up on both sides of South Main. So, the people are coming back — the consumers needed to sustain small businesses are returning — and now there are larger pieces of land ready for redevelopment.
The stage is set. The question is whether 2013 will be the year when this show gets on the road. Let’s hope so.
The Main Street face of Data Graphics Printing, 1302 S. Main St., is getting a major makeover.
The owners, Kathy and Curt Medlin, have created two rental office spaces at the front of their building. One of them already has been leased to a new company. The other is available for lease. These offices have high visibility and Main Street entrances.
The Medlins have added an awning to their building that will give customers who do business there some protection from the elements. Lights will be installed under that awning to illuminate that corner at night.
Data Graphics, a commercial printing and promotions company, is doing what it can to improve the appearance of that stretch of Main Street.
The business is not alone in that pursuit. Up the street, Hoag’s Restaurant Equipment, 1044 S. Main St., has improved the exterior of its 1926 building with new lettering and trim work. The flower baskets out front are a nice touch.
If you haven’t noticed, new lighting has been added to the Main Street exterior of the Gryphon Building, 1027 S. Main St.
These are small improvements, but they add up.
If you have news about something that’s happening on Range Line Road or Main Street, call 623-3480, ext. 7250; or send an email to email@example.com; or send a fax to Wally Kennedy at 623-8598.