Neosho residents got a chance to give their input to a downtown Square revitalization project.

Neosho residents got a chance to give their input to a downtown Square revitalization project.

About 25 people made up of business and civic leaders and residents gathered at the Civic Thursday afternoon to hear a presentation from Hurst-Rosche Engineers Inc., a Hillsboro, Ill., based engineering firm and give their own ideas for what changes, if any, they would like to see on the downtown Square. The first session was held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, with a second following from 5 to 7 p.m.

The city has contracted with Hurst-Rosche to draw up plans to widen sidewalks, install four water features, build crosswalks, plant trees and even install outdoor seating on the Square to make the area more inviting to shoppers and pedestrian traffic.

According to David Pool, vice president for the architectural firm, one of the company’s main goals is to seek public input for the project before work begins.

“We are not one who believes that they have all of the answers to what you want to do,” Pool said.
“We pride ourselves on being good listeners. We don’t really care where good ideas come from, as long as we get good ideas. And we don’t believe there is one ‘right’ solution for downtown. We believe there are good opportunities and hopefully, together, we can craft something that is beneficial to Neosho.”

The plan is part of the DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri) initiative enacted by former Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt. Neosho was a pilot community in the project.

The engineering firm plans on incorporating some of the ideas developed by Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets, Inc., a consultant group who had suggested a number of changes to Neosho’s historic downtown Square under the DREAM initiative.

Among these plans were widening sidewalks to allow the introduction of outdoor seating, trees and sidewalk sale space, placing red brick crosswalks in the middle of all four streets of the square, and installing four “water features” such as fountains on all four corners of the Square.

But the Illinois company wants to make some changes to those initial plans. Instead of placing water fountains on the corners on the courthouse side, and possibly blocking visibility, plans call for these features to be placed in the middle on each side, and on the outside area within the widened sidewalks.

“You have one thing I noticed and that’s those wide streets,” Pool said. “I can tell you as a person who came to Neosho for the first time in the last couple of years, it’s striking.”

Among the suggestions for the water features were it should spotlight figures in the town’s history, such as painter Thomas Hart Benton. These notable people could be featured in bronze as part of the water features.

Widening sidewalks while still having two maneuverable lanes of traffic was also discussed during the afternoon session.

Pool told those gathered a nominal lane size would be 11-foot, a foot narrower than state and federal highway lane sizes.

But that narrow a lane width, coupled with 90-degree turns on the Square, meant for problems when scenarios were run through a simulator, Pool said.

“When we ran a truck through the simulator, there were problems making that 90-degree turn on the inside,” he said. “Eleven feet doesn’t allow for a delivery truck.”

The firm studied the problem and found that a 13-foot lane would eliminate the turning radius problem. Furthermore, there would be sweeping turns at each corner, not sharp right-angle, or 90-degree turns, Pool said.

Those attending the session brought up a variety of issues, including installing signage to mark truck routes to what type of trees, if any, to plant on the square.

On this last issue, many in the audience favored small, ornamental trees such as dogwoods and redbuds over larger varieties such as seedless honey locust. Pool had suggested trees that don’t produce pods or seeds in an effort to minimize attracting wildlife that may become a nuisance, such as birds.

Pool added the firm has not set a time limit for hearing public input and asked if any audience member knew of someone who would be interested in commenting to e-mail his associate, Boyd Poirier, at Others who didn’t attend the sessions may also e-mail comments to the above address.