The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

July 13, 2011

Anson Burlingame, columnist: A Joplin built for everyone

JOPLIN, Mo. — I first visited downtown Joplin about 13 years ago. In my opinion, it was ugly. Old, dilapidated or abandoned buildings, fast food businesses, filling stations, and general wear and tear. I was not impressed.

Over the past several years much progress has been made, particularly between Spiva Park and Seventh Street. In my view, we have an opportunity to accelerate that progress as we rebuild following the May 22 tornado.

The same thoughts apply to the 20th Street corridor and about 10 blocks on Range Line. Do it all or only tackle one corridor seems to be a choice now. Or we can simply rebuild as before with little innovation of change.

Just imagine if Main Street was a walking mall with a trolley car (that costs about a quarter to ride) connecting one end at Spiva Park to 32nd Street on the other end. Maybe it would even be a clean-energy trolley car or one that could be quickly modified to such new energy when the technology catches up.

Just imagine a green boulevard on 20th Street connecting Main Street and Range Line. Just imagine a “magnet area” on Range Line centered on 20th Street. Really dream and consider all three areas connected only by cheap public transportation a “Street Car of Imagination” with ample parking on both Range Line and Main Street from which all people can drive and then be connected to various “magnets.” And, of course, bike paths for those able to use them would be included in all three corridors. And those bike paths would connect to outlying areas as well, as is already being achieved.

No cars would be allowed in any of those new corridors. Only cheap public transportation, like a quarter a ride.

Such a vision does not exclude anyone. A well-built and maintained homeless shelter and treatment center for addiction can be included. Some of those areas could easily accommodate low-cost apartments as well as high-cost lofts. Put in a centrally located public housing center, again safe and well maintained and with cheap public transportation for residents to go shopping or eating wherever they so choose to go.

Mom-and-pop grocery stores and attractive pharmacies as well as a range of restaurants. How about a downtown movie theater and continued encouragement of a privately owned and operated cultural center complete with concert hall and live theater with ticket prices that almost all could afford.?

What a wonderful opportunity to “clean up” Joplin for everyone.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin. His blog “I’m Not Sure, Are You?” can be found at

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Tornado: Columns