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Workers put up the Sunset Court neon sign on the side of the Western Trading Post building at Florence and Third streets.

CASA GRANDE — A plan to build a new neon sign park in downtown Casa Grande will receive a $144,000 infusion of cash to get the project off the ground.

The sign park project, a joint effort between Casa Grande Main Street and the Casa Grande Historic Preservation Commission, placed second in the month-long Partners in Preservation Main Streets competition hosted by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in partnership with Main Street America.

Winners in the competition were announced Thursday.

As one of 11 winning projects, the sign park will receive $144,000 in preservation funding from American Express.

“This is a big win for Casa Grande,” said Rina Rien, director of Casa Grande Main Street. “And we couldn’t have done it without the support of the community. We had a core group of supporters voting for us five times every day.”

Winners were determined by popular vote.

More than 920,000 votes were cast as part of the campaign, which celebrated historic commercial corridors across the nation, a press release from competition promoters said.

Casa Grande’s sign park received the second-highest number of votes, edging out projects in higher population cities.

“This really was a grassroots campaign,” Rien said. “We rallied early and never lost momentum. That’s a testament to this community.”

The new vintage neon sign park will be installed in Arizona Plaza, 408 N. Sacaton St., between Florence Boulevard and Second Street. Planning for the park began years ago when preservationists salvaged several of Casa Grande’s classic neon signs, preventing them from being sent to the landfill.

Earlier this year, the first of several historic neon signs was restored. The Sunset Court motel neon sign was repaired in Tucson and installed last month on Third Street, on the side of the Western Trading Post building. It will be incorporated into a large Highway 84-theme mural being painted onto the building by artist Mark White that will serve as a gateway from downtown into the sign park.

Other signs destined for the park are Horseshoe Motel, Goddard Shoe, Dairy Queen and Edison signs as well as others.

The project will receive 50 percent of the prize money upfront to begin park design work, Rien said. The remainder of the money will be paid when the project is completed.

Work on the park is expected to begin in early 2018 and should be finished by the end of next year.

Rien said the park will provide a new downtown destination and spur grassroots support for historic downtown reinvestment and economic development.

Nationwide, 11 projects will receive grant money through the Partners in Preservation: Main Streets competition.

Other winners were:

  • Parker Hall and the John Trower Building in Philadelphia
  • Formosa Café in Los Angeles
  • The Lyric Theater in West Des Moines, Iowa
  • The Carolina Theatre in Greensboro, North Carolina
  • E. Romero Hose and Fire Building in Las Vegas, New Mexico
  • The Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama
  • The Woodward Theater in Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Ivers Square in Cape Girardeau, Missouri
  • McKinney Performing Arts Center in McKinney, Texas
  • Utah Pickle Company and Hide Buildings in Salt Lake City, Utah

Established in 2006 by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Partners in Preservation is a community-based partnership created to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places and their role in sustaining local communities. To date, Partners in Preservation has awarded $19 million in support of more than 200 historic sites across the United States, according to the press release.

This year’s campaign emphasized Main Street communities around the nation and their positive local impact. Twenty-five different main street districts participated in the campaign hosted by media partner National Geographic, from Sept. 25 through Oct. 31.

“These grants will enable main streets to preserve the historic features that make these districts so special,” Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, said in the press release. “When we support our local historic sites and main streets through philanthropy or through events like Small Business Saturday, we drive development, preserve character, attract visitors and propel commerce.”

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