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PROJECT BRANSON is a private, proactive coalition of successful Branson business people and entrepreneurs who represent more than twenty business locations on or adjacent to West Highway 76, Branson Missouri’s central tourism corridor. We believe in the long term viability of this destination and the power and importance of West Highway 76 as the entertainment hub that is critical to this destination’s continuing success.
We volunteer our time and contribute resources to ensure the continued prosperity of our community, as well as the people and businesses who call it home.
OUR VISION is for Branson to become the #1 vacation destination in the Central United States with West Highway 76 as its thriving and vibrant hub, bringing millions to the area and exceeding the expectations of visitors and entrepreneurs alike.
OUR MISSION is to be a catalyst for high-quality, tourism-focused development on West Highway 76 between Highway 65 and Shepherd of the Hills Expressway that grows our market by attracting more visitors to Branson.
OUR PLAN includes providing the coordination and collaboration of all available resources in pursuit of this vision. The Project Branson participants represent a dozen independent businesses in every major tourism industry classification. The individuals active in our coalition have more than 200 years of business experience in the Branson market and are willing and able to make their expertise, contacts, connections, influence and resources available for this purpose.
In January 2017, the City of Branson and Project Branson entered into a service contract agreement for the development of creative concepts for the Highway 76 revitalization, with a special emphasis on the gateways and icons envisioned for the Entertainment District in both the Branson Community Plan 2030 (2012) and the Spirit of 76 Master Plan (2014).
Project Branson is a private, non-profit coalition of successful businesses who represent more than twenty locations on or adjacent to West Highway 76. Based on their belief in the power and importance of this entertainment hub to the continued prosperity of the region, they volunteer time and contribute resources to help ensure its ongoing success.
These private and public sectors agreed to a shared vision for the creative features of the entertainment district. The vision recognized the revitalization as a “once-in-forever opportunity to welcome visitors” while “showcasing our unique and appealing attributes in a tangible way for future generations of residents and visitors to appreciate and enjoy.”
Project Branson combined city icons and gateways to better serve the purpose and resources of the revitalization, and then implemented a six-step process to secure and consumer test various creative concepts. Six creative concepts that met the established criteria were tested with Branson visitors, non-visitors and residents in September 2017 by H2R Market Research. Two of the six concepts scored very well with the consumer audience and provided key learnings that directed concept finalization. Research strongly showed that the Ozarks natural beauty and active engagement are essential components of an appealing iconic gateway and Entertainment District corridor in Branson.
Based on the results of that research, Project Branson has recommended the merging of the two most popular concepts for a design aesthetic and iconic gateway(s) concepts to be implemented as design work for the West Highway 76 revitalization continues.
Project Branson recommends to the City of Branson:
Guiding Principle: Ozarks Nature + Active Fun (Play)
Overall Theme: “Naturally Playful”
Iconic Gateways: Treehouse Tower and Wonderfalls
Streetscape Features and Amenities: Celebrate the Natural Beauty of the Ozarks and Provide Opportunities to Play
Corridor Renaming: Branson Boulevard
Project Branson believes that this creative concept package fulfills the shared vision, meets our agreed upon criteria, is aligned with goals for the Entertainment District and will be loved by residents and visitors alike for many years to come. The next steps are to incorporate these concepts into streetscape design for the remainder of the revitalization project, determine specific iconic gateway resources and retain designers with expertise in public and interactive water features, Ozarks-themed structures and natural playscapes for further development of these concepts.
The City of Branson has begun work on a once-in-a-lifetime transformation of Highway 76 from Shepherd of the Hills Expressway to Highway 65 – the core Entertainment District of our region.
Project Branson is helping to make the revitalized area a more exciting, interesting and appealing destination. Please take a moment to help us evaluate some creative concepts that have been developed for Branson’s central corridor. Lots of great ideas have been gathered, but ultimately we want to create something that both our residents and our visitors love, remember and enjoy for many years to come.
Thank you for your help!
Project Branson, a private, economic development group and long-time advocate for the 76 Revitalization Program, participated in a presentation on April 6, 2017 at the Branson City Council Study Session as the newest member of the 76 Revitalization Program Team. In addition to being under contract with the City to provide creative elements for the transformation of the corridor, Project Branson works to assure accurate and timely information is available to property owners, businesses and other stakeholders who have interest in the new Entertainment District and its redevelopment.
The following topics have been discussed recently throughout the community and merit additional factual content, clarification and updated information.
76 REVITALIZATION COSTS SO FAR
As of February 2017, the City of Branson has spent $13 million on the revitalization of West Highway 76 from State Highway 65 to Shepherd of the Hills Expressway. Utilizing revenues from the City’s tourism tax (for infrastructure) and the general fund, the City has completed a Master Plan, supported early implementation for private entities initiating new construction on the corridor in advance of the program schedule (Pasghetti’s, Branson Auto & Farm Museum and CiCi’s) and began construction on Phase 1A/Segment 3 of the corridor per the program schedule. Revitalization of Segment 3 is moving quickly toward completion with 80% of the duct bank and utility work and 45% of the surface improvements now substantially complete. This $13 million investment consists of $7.6 million for the Conceptual Master Plan; $1.3 million for early adopters design and construction, and $4.1 million for Phase 1A/Segment 3 revitalization.
WATER LINE UPGRADE
In addition to the revitalization planned for the 76 corridor, the City’s water line in this area required critical upgrades. Increasing capacity with the installation of 12” water lines here, is a vital component of the entire City’s water distribution system and will allow for improved movement of water from the treatment plants to the water towers. Updated lines will also increase pressures and flows to homes and businesses in nearly all areas of the City, according to David Miller, City of Branson Public Works Director. City utility rates have increased to fund these improvements, and the water line upgrade is underway in conjunction with the Highway 76 Revitalization Program, in order to save money, leverage resources and minimize disruption to business activity along the corridor. The water line work is estimated at $16 million which is separate from the 76 Revitalization Program budget.
When Jim Martin began as the 76 Revitalization Program Manager last summer, he soon discovered that program cost estimates had grown from $80 million to $180 million for the full five mile transformation. Since August, the program team (Olsson Associates, Carson-Mitchell, and Boyce Excavating with City of Branson Engineering & Public Works) have diligently value-engineered the construction budget for the program. Now, with actual vendor bids, construction underway, significant completion of Phase 1A/Segment 3, and several months of analysis and revisions by the program team, the construction budget is firmly $80 million once again. Conceptual work in advance of construction ($7.6M) as well as the waterline upgrades ($16M) are additional and independent expenses.
In September, the City of Branson Board of Aldermen agreed to take over this five-mile stretch of Highway 76 from the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) in exchange for $5,645,130 in cash. When the agreement was drafted, the $13.2 million low-interest loan from MTFC (Missouri Transportation Finance Corporation) came into play as well. Initially, the loan was being applied for independent of the highway take-over agreement.
Since last fall, the City and Program Team have been investigating a variety of ways to utilize the MTFC loan opportunity, but application of those funds has proven to be impossible due to significant federal restrictions on their use. For example, utility relocations would only be eligible for federal funds where it is absolutely necessary to accommodate a sidewalk. The vast majority of the shared duct bank and costs associated with undergrounding utilities is not possible with federal funding. MoDOT management has further advised that the overall project construction schedule would likely be more than six years, due to the amount of additional reviews, inspections and audits required during construction. Since it appears that utilizing the MTFC loan would seriously impact the original vision and goals of the revitalization, the plan now is to realign the MoDOT take-over agreement independent of MTFC loans, to assure that the undergrounding of utilities, a top priority of Branson citizens and community leaders, can be accomplished and the program can be completed within the planned budget and timeline. Unfortunately, a $19,800 non-refundable fee was paid as part of the loan application process, before the full scope of federal fund restrictions was realized.
Central to the long term finance plan for this revitalization, is the expansion of the 76 Entertainment Community Improvement District established in 2016. Annexation efforts are currently underway to include the full five mile corridor in a 1% sales tax levy to fund project construction and ongoing maintenance.
STUDY SESSION PRESENTATION
The update provided at the City Council Study Session today outlined the 76 Revitalization Program in six layers, with budget detail by layer and by geographic segment. Project Branson Executive Director, Ann McDowell, explained the process and timeline underway for creative enhancements, as well as some implementation examples. Jim Martin, City of Branson 76 Program Manager, and Korey Schultz, with Olsson Associates presented the engineering, design and budgeting portions of the Program.
On May 25, 2016 the Taney County Clerk's Office certified the vote declaring a 94% victory approving a 1% sales tax that paves the way for the planned revitalization of Highway 76. Mail-in ballots from property owners in Phase 1A of the 76 Entertainment CID voted by 5:00 PM on May 24 to approve the sales tax to support this very important initiative. The retail sales tax is expected to produce approximately $400,000 annually.
Larry Schmitt, Chairman of the 76 Entertainment Community Improvement District (CID) said, “I am absolutely thrilled with this outcome and I remain grateful to the property owners who showed vision and courage with this vote. This approval is an important milestone.”
This vote solidifies a sharing of the cost and responsibility for the revitalization. The public/private partnership steering this development required passage of the tax in order to complete the project along the entire five miles of the 76 Entertainment corridor. The next effort will focus on full annexation of this area to produce the revenues necessary to complete the $80 million project.
According to Branson Alderman and 76 Entertainment CID Board Member Rick Todd, “Our goal with the 76 transformation has been to improve the safety, accessibility and attractiveness of Highway 76 for our visitors and the many establishments that serve those visitors. This project incorporates Branson’s natural and man-made features not only creates a more attractive, comfortable and convenient experience for visitors, but also supports our businesses and encourages new investment in our City.”
The 76 Complete Streets Plan includes the creation of a multi-modal corridor with wide pedestrian walkways, courtyards, landscaping, bicycle and wheelchair accessibility, an intelligent transportation and traffic control system, mass transit options, all supported by underground fiber and utilities. Stakeholders expect this revitalization to attract more visitors, encourage guests to stay longer, support the success of existing businesses and influence new business development and investment along the corridor.
“To my knowledge, this is one of the largest public/private partnerships in the nation and represents the strength of this community as private sector investors work in collaboration with the City to create and execute such a remarkable vision,” said Bill Malinen, City Administrator and Secretary/Treasurer of the 76 Entertainment CID.
Gail Myer, Vice Chairman of the 76 Entertainment CID added, “This victory represents the shared vision of all stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to ensure that Branson remains a prosperous vacation destination for decades to come. This is truly a historic day for Branson.”
Branson, MO, March 3, 2016– As part of the West Highway 76 revitalization project update from Project Manager Sabin Yanez with CFS Engineers, attendees at the study session today got a sneak peek at the initial elements of a collaborative communications plan in development.
Ann McDowell, Executive Director of Project Branson, described the origin approximately one year ago. It was a process with participation from the City of Branson, CFSE, the Branson/Lakes Area CVB and Project Branson that has contributed to this plan. Project naming, tagline, logo development and key visuals to be used by all stakeholders to spread the news about the Highway 76 revitalization project were shared.
“As our committee developed creative criteria, looked at best-in-class benchmarks from around the country, and reviewed early designs, we landed on an iconic shape that has been part of our area’s persona for many years. It is inclusive of our community’s live entertainment, natural beauty and love of country – the five-pointed star.”
The name “Branson Forward” and the initial tag line “Together We Shine” will be accompanied by a graphic star shape that includes a roadway extending into the distance. Two artistic renderings of Phase 1A of the revitalization project and initial templates showing how the creative assets might be utilized were also previewed. Final versions of these communication assets will be complete within the next few weeks. Eventually content will be available for use by all stakeholders via a website, still in development, at www.BransonForward.com.
West Highway 76 Redesign Focuses on Attracting Visitors, Supporting Business and Encouraging New Investment along West Highway 76
One of the most iconic vacation destinations in the country since the 1960’s, Branson, Missouri, now attracts more than seven million visitors annually. In recent years, the City of Branson placed a priority on enhancing the community’s central corridor, the heart of the area’s identity and economic vitality. This five mile stretch of state highway is the focal point of tourism attractions, entertainment venues and hospitality services for the region. The transformation of West Highway 76 now underway will create a fun, memorable and unique sense of place that greatly enhances the visitor experience while enriching opportunities for new and existing businesses in the area.
The vision for the “complete street” plan is to enable safe, attractive and comfortable access for all pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and public transport users of all ages and ability. The goals of the project are:
This ambitious, complete street project is one of the largest and most diversified public/private collaboration efforts in the nation. The Master Plan was inspired by citizen input, led by the City of Branson and developed by an engineering, design and architectural team coordinated by Cook, Flat and Strobel Engineers. More than 200 private property owners along the corridor are involved, with many providing voluntary joint-use-easements to accommodate the physical space required for design enhancements.
A stakeholders’ petition to the City formed the 76 Entertainment Community Improvement District (CID) which will fund the project with a 1% sales tax collected within the revitalization zone. Additional City of Branson resources are earmarked to support the project and fund ongoing maintenance and operations of the entertainment district infrastructure. Construction for the first phase begins soon on a 6/10th mile stretch that includes the Gretna Road intersection to Rosalee Street. The entire project will be implemented in small, manageable sections to minimize disruption to visitors and business operations during construction. Completion of the full five-mile renovation is estimated by 2024.
Although a master plan is in place, the opportunities for flexibility, innovation and creativity are ongoing. This grand vision for Branson is a bold and courageous revitalization that integrates the latest technology with the unique character of a vacation destination founded on hospitality, wholesome fun and family entertainment in a naturally beautiful setting. Ultimately the community’s spirit of collaboration, inherent ingenuity, and genuine desire to attract and satisfy visitors will move Branson forward. Continued growth and change, while embracing both the area’s roots and new and exciting guest experiences, will assure Branson remains a popular and prospering destination for generations to come.