TOPEKA (KSNT) – The quest to ‘bring back the Boulevard’ is on. Several local businesses teamed up to revitalize southwest Topeka Boulevard years ago but now, their ideas are turning into reality.

‘Bring back the Boulevard,’ a group of local businesses dedicated to fixing up their area of town emerged from Topeka and Shawnee County’s Momentum 22 plan roughly five years ago.

“One of the things we called out in that strategy is that the low hanging fruit in our community is really aesthetics,” Greater Topeka Partnership (GTP) CEO Matt Pivarnik said. “The way things look, the beautification of our community.” 

Focusing on the aesthetics of Topeka Boulevard is something ‘Bring back the Boulevard’ took to heart. White Lakes Mall no longer exists and, according to the GTP, Whataburger and Chick-Fil-A will move into the parking lot where the Wild Horse Saloon currently sits.

Meanwhile, other local businesses, who are part of the ‘Bring back the Boulevard’ initiative, are pitching in however they can.

“So many people use their voices right and want to use their voices to solve problems,” Pivarnik said. “The group with ‘Bring Back the Boulevard,’ they use their feet, and they use their brains. And they rolled up their sleeves and got to work.” 

One of those businesses is Knox Signs & Graphics, who created the new ‘Welcome to Topeka’ sign that can be found at southwest Topeka Boulevard. and southeast 45th Street. The owner, Erik Knox, said the shop moved into its current location on Topeka Boulevard nine years ago, but he completely renovated the building about five years ago. He also bought and is currently remodeling the buildings next to his.

Knox said the idea to buy and fix up neighboring properties came from Kent Lammers, who is one of the pioneers of ‘Bring back the Boulevard.’

“I just thought it was great he’s [Lammers] doing so much to it because obviously the Boulevard needs a lot of work,” Knox said. “The roads are bad, the bridges need work.”

Improving the area’s infrastructure has been a large focal point recently as well, according to Lammers. He told 27 News he’s been working alongside the city to come up with a plan, starting with addressing the pavement and walkways.

Lammers also said changes are coming to the stretch of Topeka Boulevard between 21st and 29th Streets as soon as March or April of 2024.

“You don’t want to come off the highway right away and see rundown buildings and the streets and stuff like that,” Knox said. “I think Topeka has the ability to be something nice, but it’s going to take a lot of work. So I’m hoping with what we’re doing, it brings more traffic.” 

The idea is to recruit new residents to come to Topeka and encourage current ones to stay.

“What I’m hoping is that people will be motivated by what’s happening on south Topeka Boulevard, because there’s still a lot of work to do,” Pivarnik said. “But, look at other corridors and address those in the same way. Let’s get aggressive about having a beautiful city.”