Wally Kennedy: Game-changing development coming to Joplin site

May 17—It's not a rumor anymore. Something big is in the works for the 70-acre International Paper Co. site east of 26th Street and Range Line Road.

The Joplin City Council on Monday will receive information about a redevelopment project for this hazardous waste site that could, if all things work out, become the biggest project of its kind in the history of Joplin — bigger than even Northpark Mall.

We're talking $375 million. Of course, Mercy Hospital, at $465 million, is still the big one.

Things like this don't happen overnight. City officials have been working behind the scenes for more than a year with multiple parties, including federal and state environmental agencies, to bring this project forward. But there are things — a lot of them — that need to be worked out. The devil, as they say, is in the details. But be hopeful. I know it's a cliche to say this, but this could be a game-changer for Joplin.

One thing is certain — the council will have a lot to digest.

There is so much involved I'm not going to even attempt to explain what is in the works in this limited space. My suggestion: Check out joplinglobe.com and latch on to a copy of next week's editions of this newspaper and prepare yourself for some heavy-duty reading.

Whataburger reviews

An effort is required, but it's worth it.

That was the general reaction expressed by online reviewers about Monday's opening of the new Whataburger restaurant at 2014 S. Range Line Road. The restaurant was opened to drive-thru customers only. If the restaurant had not been opened this way, there certainly would have been a major traffic jam on Range Line.

Customers were guided to Whataburger's rear entrance on Highview Avenue where two lines of traffic were formed to feed into the drive-thru lanes. You cannot access the restaurant from Range Line at this time. Eventually, the drive-thru traffic flows to Range Line. Some reviewers said they waited in those lines for what seemed like hours, but that it was worth the wait.

A worker at the site told me Wednesday the dining room will remain closed until about the middle of next month. At that time, it is hoped that traffic into the restaurant will be more manageable so that the Range Line entrance to the restaurant can open. The worker also told me the new Whataburger in Webb City will be opening about the same time next month.

To see what all the fuss was about, I ordered a jalapeno cheeseburger meal Wednesday. It included fries and a drink for $11.38. I must admit, the burger was big and tasty, and it was hot. It was more than I could eat in one setting.

Whataburger offers a wide selection of menu items, including wings. You can view the menu online. Breakfast is served from 11 p.m. to 11 a.m. The restaurant is a 24-hour operation.

Back in business

Babies "R" Us is coming to Kohl's locations across the country later this year, Kohl's recently announced.

What is not clear yet is whether a Babies "R" Us will open this fall in the Kohl's store at 301 S. Geneva Ave.

A worker there told me the store will know later this year if it is among the 200 Kohl's stores nationwide that will feature the shops.

The first shops will open in August and continue to roll out this fall. The partnership is an effort by Kohl's to broaden its appeal to young families.

Back in business

The Chick-fil-A at 2127 S. Range Line Road was closed a few weeks back so that the restaurant could expand and improve its drive-thru lanes. That's because this Chick-fil-A is one of the busiest in the nation.

If all goes as planned, the restaurant will reopen June 6.

Teacher recognition

Brady Graham, a teacher at Carl Junction High School, and Whitney Stahl, a teacher at Joplin High School, are two of 40 teachers selected from a field of 929 nominees from across the Midwest to be recognized as inspiring educators in The Big Biscuit National Teacher Appreciation Week Campaign.

The Big Biscuit, a breakfast/lunch chain headquartered in Prairie Village, Kansas, opened a new restaurant in Joplin earlier this year.

Graham and Stahl each received a $100 Big Biscuit gift card.

A little paint goes a long way

Some big but subtle changes have been happening to businesses on South Main Street.

The McDonald's at 2701 S. Main St., the first in Joplin, is getting a major makeover. A worker there said the remodeling will continue for at least two more weeks. Papa John's Pizza at 1931 S. Main St. has been given a complete exterior makeover with new signage. That project is about to wrap up. Across the street, a former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant is being transformed into a Smoke 4 Less outlet.

Talk about a lot of painting, nearly the entire length of the west side of the 1700 block of South Main has been repainted by a new owner who is promoting its redevelopment.

Contact Wally Kennedy at wkennedy@joplinglobe.com.