In 2021, Missouri Main Street Connection celebrated $1 billion of private and public investment in Main Street districts across Missouri. This incredible investment, tracked since 2006, has transformed downtowns.
There are key differences between public and private investment. Public investment is described as dollars spent by the public sector, including city, county, and state governments while private investment comes from other non-governmental sources. Since Missouri Main Street Connection has been collecting statistics, private investment has more than doubled that of public investment in downtowns. The doubling of private investment has been possible in part due to the public sector’s emphasis in creating the foundation for development.
In 2012, Cape Girardeau showcased why having a public and private partnership is essential for sustaining revitalization. Shortly before 2012, a new casino was developed along the riverfront. To enhance the area and attract people to the river, the casino partnered with the City of Cape Girardeau and Old Town Cape on a beautification project on one of downtown’s main corridors, Broadway Street. This project included new streets, major landscaping, and new cantilever street lighting that transformed downtown in a meaningful way. This project brought much needed beautification, lighting, and walkability measures to this busy thoroughfare, a long-identified need from the community. Here is what Liz Haynes, Executive Director of Old Town Cape, said about the project:
“The Broadway streetscape project in Cape Girardeau exemplifies how sound community planning can transform a street and neighborhood and propelled extensive private and public investment in the Broadway corridor. A result of the planning efforts has been increased pedestrian activity, investment in buildings and facades, and an enhanced, beautiful street for Old Town Cape.”
Public investment can be the catalyst in private sector downtown development efforts. The Main Street philosophy focuses on leveraging together resources to capitalize on small incremental changes that change the perspective of downtown and utilize good business practices to attract investors and partners with the potential market of a vibrant downtown. Private investment many times happens when there is a shown effort to revitalize downtown. As a result of these collaborative efforts in Cape Girardeau, eight blocks of Broadway Street received the 2021 American Planning Association Missouri Great Place Award. This award recognizes projects and places that have shown to have great economic impact on an area.
Investment in downtown comes from intentional efforts to revitalize. However, this effort takes more than just one or two people, but it truly takes the community. Public and private investment need to work hand in hand for true, comprehensive development that will be sustainable. Investment doesn’t happen on accident; it takes forethought and a plan by all who want to envision a thriving community that provides a high quality of life for its community members.