Pittsburg ‘pretty far down the road’ on plans for lot next to Braum’s, officials say

Jonathan Riley
Morning Sun
A customer pulls into the parking lot at Braum's on South Broadway in Pittsburg. Braum's is located just north of a vacant building (in background) that the City of Pittsburg, which owns the property, has approved for demolition.

PITTSBURG, Kan. — Braum’s on South Broadway is a popular destination — so much so that the line for the drive-thru sometimes backs up into the street, causing traffic problems. This became a topic of discussion at this week’s Pittsburg City Commission meeting, with one local resident proposing a potential solution. 

Joella Skyles spoke during the public input period of Tuesday’s commission meeting, noting that the commission voted last July to acquire and demolish the property at 525 S. Broadway at a cost not to exceed $122,000. 

“I don’t know what the purpose of that was,” she said. “That’s my first question: where are we with that?” 

Though city officials addressed her questions a few minutes later, Skyles went on to say she assumed the city would use the property — which is just south of Braum’s on the other side of Ramsay Street — to “entice” Braum’s to expand its Pittsburg location. 

“Our current store location at 515 S. Broadway is extremely busy and its parking lot and its drive-thru are really inadequate to our needs and in some ways dangerous,” Skyles said. She suggested the city should contact Braum’s about building a new, bigger Pittsburg location, which would also serve to “enhance the safety of the patrons who utilize that business.” 

Skyles, who says she goes to Braum’s at least twice a week, said that Coffeyville and Independence, which each have about half of Pittsburg’s population, “both have Braum’s that are double our size.” Braum’s is beginning construction on its third Joplin location, she noted, which will be well over 5,000 square feet with double drive-thru windows and a dining room capacity of around 75 to 80 people. 

“It’s what they call their extra-large model,” Skyles said. 

Following Skyles’s comments, Blake Benson, economic development director for the city as well as president of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce, answered her question about why the city acquired the property south of Braum’s. He also said the city has been in discussions about developing it. 

“The main goal is to get that property back into productive commercial use and a use that’s good for the city,” Benson said. “I can’t necessarily go into the specifics of dealings that we have had with different prospects, but we are pretty far down the road working with an individual prospect that is interested in the property. We feel like it would be a good project for the community, and no one wants to get it done faster than we do. But those of you that have been in business, you know these projects take a long time to get the details finalized.” 

Benson said he looked forward to having more details to present to the commission in the “very near future.” 

He said the city’s ongoing discussions about how the lot will be used are the reason why the existing building at 525 S. Broadway has not yet been demolished. 

“One of the primary reasons for getting that property was it does look bad, and we do realize that,” Benson said. “We want to have a good idea of what the future of that parcel is going to be before we spend the money to demolish the building. Believe it or not there have been some people that have looked at the building that feel like they can salvage it. I’m not a construction guy but I don’t think that’s feasible. But at the same time, we want to leave every option on the table, so that’s the reason at this time that we’ve held off on the demolition.” 

City Manager Daron Hall also responded to Skyles’s comments, addressing her concern that traffic backing up at the Braum’s drive-thru is a safety issue. 

“We meet weekly and there’s not a week that we meet that we don’t ask Blake where we are with Braum’s because you’re exactly right, the traffic is into the street and it’s dangerous,” Hall said. 

Braum’s, which has a menu featuring ice cream, burgers and many other items, was founded in 1968 in Oklahoma, and today has nearly 300 locations throughout the four-state area as well as in Texas. 

Attempts to reach Braum’s for comment this week about any potential plans to expand its Pittsburg location, or about related traffic safety issues, were unsuccessful.