The Tulsa Route 66 Commission is forming a plan to award neon sign grants to downtown businesses.
Right now, applicants must be within a Route 66 zoning overlay district, but overlays are not allowed downtown. The commission is in the process establishing downtown Route 66 alignments, and businesses on those would be eligible for the neon grants.
"They won’t be able to have the larger sign that we allow in the actual overlay, but at least we will give them some funding support, and that will encourage more neon development," said Tulsa Route 66 Commission Finance Chair Ken Busby.
Downtown businesses would be subject to all existing zoning regulations where they're located, and they would have to go through the regular approval process for signs, which includes a Board of Adjustment hearing.
There would not be any extensions along the downtown alignments, either. Within the Route 66 overlay, businesses within 300 feet of certain intersections are eligible for neon grants.
Proposed alignments come from National Park Service and 1928 Tulsa Chamber maps. They include 10th and 11th streets, along with First Place and portions of Second and Seventh streets and Detroit and Cheyenne avenues.
"That was how the alignment went when it was first opened from 1926 to 1932. It wasn’t until 1932 that we then saw the more 11th Street that we all think of. So, those two alignments is what we’re recognizing," Busby said.
Route 66 along Admiral Boulevard would have come into downtown along First Place and Second Street.
Grants offer a 50% reimubursement up to $10,000 for new or refurbished signs that are at least 25% neon.
Busby said the commission's goal is a neon corridor that could help drive tourists to Tulsa.
"In addition to people loving Route 66, there are just neon fans out there. So, we can really promote to them now and say, 'You know, we’ve got a nice little slice of neon coming through Tulsa,'" Busby said.
Nine grants have been approved since the program started in April. The Route 66 commission should vote on the downtown plan next month.