Blue Springs downtown arch

By Mike Genet
The Examiner

Some form of welcoming monument for Blue Springs’ downtown area had been discussed for years but never materialized.  

That is, until Clay Swope walked into America’s Community Bank on Main Street one day in April 2017, as Cindy Miller remembers. 

This arch on Main Street wlecomes visitors to downtown Blue Springs.

“He asked, are we going to get a gateway arch, and I said we don’t have the money,” recalls Miller, who leads the community group Downtown Alive!, said to the crowd of a few dozen gathered next to the dental office under a welcomed shade tree. “So he gave me a check for $4,000. 

“With (wife) Donna’s permission, he gave me a check.” 

Miller said the idea of an arch welcoming people to downtown Blue Springs was a “pipe dream” at the time. But Thursday a group gathered to officially celebrate the gateway that actually has been finished for a couple months. 

“That gift gave us some incentive,” Miller said, noting that Swope unfortunately died in February and could not join the celebration. 

The arch, with “Downtown Blue Springs” in block lettering overtop Main Street near Missouri 7 and brick-encased pillars just off the sidewalks, and lit up at night, was built completely on private donations, whether it be money, materials or labor. 

If anyone grumbled before about how the arch jutted into the street a bit, Miller said, hopefully they’ve accepted the change by now. If nothing else, it can capture attention.  

“It’s encouraged people to come into that district,” Miller said. 

After Swope donated the seed money and some other contributions started to come in, Miller said her the downtown group scouted some other downtown markings and picked some favorite ideas, and contractors already working on the City Hall renovation were “kind enough to help us” with some initial renderings, Miller said. Engineer Joe Lampen, whose office is on Main Street, enhanced that work, and they got the necessary permits from the city in the summer of 2018. 

Exterior work generally was completed in the spring of 2020, then came electrical work, and by fall the structure was complete. Miller went on to thank the individual companies and top donors who made the project possible, with more than $30,000 in monetary donations and nearly $34,000 of in-kind donations. 

Blue Springs Mayor Carson Ross said downtown has been receiving renewed interest from potential merchants and tenants, and he and Miller both touted the planned mixed-use development “The Yard” that is slated for the old lumber yard space across the railroad tracks. 

“The heart of the personality of a city doesn’t live in the big box stores,” Ross said, “It lives in the downtown.” 

While the arch goes over Main Street on the east side, Miller said a planned welcoming structure on the west side, somewhere west of 15th Street, won’t have an arch, and the twin pillars there won’t need to run as deep into the ground as on the west side (9 feet). Already, help is lining up for that construction, as well, and Miller welcomed a $5,000 donation for the east structure Thursday. 

“I think the process will be a lot simpler,” she said.