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Keith Winge

Keith has been a part of the Missouri Main Street team since 2013 as the State Community Development Coordinator working with Missouri communities to organize, develop and grow their Main Street program. Before joining Missouri Main Street, Keith was a founding board member and then the first Executive Director for the Main Street program in Excelsior Springs. Keith lives in Kansas City and when he is not traveling the state, you can find him running 5Ks, gardening or cooking and eating good food.

I am an avid gardener and love sticking my hands in the dirt.  Playing in the dirt allows me time to reflect and process work-related challenges and opportunities.  As I was planting some spring flowers recently, I was reflecting on the old saying about when to plant a tree.  The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago with the second-best time being today.  Of course, you benefit from a tree planted 20 years ago as the tree now offers shade, beauty and strength from years of growth.  If it is a fruit tree, you enjoy the fruit that it now produces as a mature tree.  If you didn’t plant that tree 20 years ago, then the next best time to plant a tree is today. 

The same goes for downtown revitalization – the best time to start a revitalization organization or project was 20 years ago with the next best time being today.  Had we begun our efforts in rehabilitating buildings, adding pocket parks, or creating that event over 20 years ago, we would now be enjoying the fruits of our labor.   I think many communities get into that mode of “it’s too late” to start or we should have done that a long time ago.  True.  But if you didn’t get started years ago, you can start today.  Make that call to garner support from property and business owners, contact Missouri Main Street for assistance, or begin that project that has been on the shelf for years.  It isn’t too late.  In fact, today is the second-best time to get started. 

 

Missouri Main Street offers several grants to assist you in your efforts in planting those seeds of downtown economic development in your community.  Contact Keith Winge, Community Development Coordinator at kwinge@momainstreet.org for more information.  

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As Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) celebrates a decade of successful nonprofit service in Missouri, we are reflecting on all things to the power of 10.  Here are 10 services provided by Missouri Main Street.

Coordinating Program for Missouri.  The National Main Street contracts with Missouri Main Street to administer the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to downtown revitalization in Missouri.  This is very powerful because it allows the communities in Missouri to utilize the Main Street program and all that brings with it:  the network, the brand, the resources and the partnerships.  Not every state has a coordinating program and several have come and gone due to budgeting and personnel.  MMSC is strong because of the relationships with our Main Street organizations, the State of Missouri through the Department of Economic Development and the legislators, the local municipalities and the MMSC board of directors. 

Accreditation.  Through an extensive annual review of the Main Street programs in Missouri, MMSC is able to accredit the best Main Street programs in the state alongside the National Main Street Center.  National accreditation is a big deal.  It is based upon the National Main Street 10-Point Criteria which measures the organization’s capacity, leadership, community involvement and effectiveness.  There are currently only six accredited Main Street programs in Missouri:  Old Town Cape, Inc. (Cape Girardeau), Main Street Chillicothe, Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Historic Downtown Liberty, Warrensburg Main Street, and Downtown Washington, Inc. 

Tier System.  When MMSC started in 2006, it had resurrected itself from a state run organization into a non-profit with only 10 communities in the network.  Today MMSC has assisted more than 170 communities across the state.  With a staff of four people, that assistance had to be categorized into tiers.  The more invested a community is in the Main Street program, the more services MMSC could offer.  This four-tier system offers phone consultation, technical and organizational visits along with board planning sessions and access to the resource library for members via the MMSC website.  You can learn more about the services offered through the tier system online.

State Conference.  Every July MMSC offers the only statewide educational and networking event for commercial district revitalization that blends economic development, community revitalization and historic preservation.  It brings together experts in the field of downtown revitalization into three days of educational sessions, in-the-field tours and networking.  The conference also features the Evening of Excellence awards recognizing the best in Missouri Main Street communities.  Visit the conference website for details.  Don’t miss this year’s conference on July 26-28. 

Cultivating Place Training, Kansas City, MO

Quarterly Workshops.  It is written in the Missouri Main Street mission that providing tools and resources to Missouri communities and one of the ways that is achieved is through quarterly workshops held in the spring and fall.  These workshops focus on a specific aspect of the Main Street Four-Point Approach®.  The most recent workshops have been focused on economic vitality through education on real estate investment, attracting and retaining businesses and marketing those spaces in downtowns.  Missouri Main Street members receive a discount on these training opportunities.  Mark your calendar for November 11, 2016, for the next workshop in Chillicothe.

Grant Programs.  Because of the funds Missouri Main Street receives from the State of Missouri, grants, memberships and fundraising, it can offer service grants.  These grants are varied in the services they offer with the Affiliate Grant guiding a community with starting and building a Main Street program.  The People Energizing Places and Strategic Teams Engaging Places grants assist a Main Street community in growing the organization’s capacity and effectiveness.  All of these grants are matching with Missouri Main Street assuming 60-75% of the costs. 

Technical Services.  Maybe you don’t need a grant but a specialized service to grow.  Missouri Main Street offers a full list of services ranging from a couple of hours to a couple of days.  Some of these services include conducting a community visioning session, board strategic planning session, customer service training, technical visit on economic development or a multi-day downtown strategic planning session.  The complete list is available online. 

2016 Annual Conference, Kansas City, MO

Partnerships/Relationships.  Missouri Main Street has relationships with other state-wide organizations that can be utilized by downtown organizations to assist in the revitalization efforts.  The Department of Economic Development, State Historic Preservation Office, Certified Local Government Program, Missouri Preservation, Missouri Arts Council, USDA, AARP and many others have programs and resources for Missouri communities.  Contact us for more information.

Networking.  Everything Missouri Main Street does revolves around the downtown communities being served.  With that in mind, the act of bringing people together to share ideas and learn from one another is vital to everyone’s success.  Missouri Main Street receives feedback every year on the value of conversing with other Main Street professionals and learning from their successes and failures.  Take advantage of this service because in many cases, there is no need to re-invent the wheel.

2016 Main Street Showcase, Jefferson City


Advocacy. 
And last but certainly not least, Missouri Main Street promotes and shouts from the downtown rooftops the importance of downtown revitalization in Missouri communities.  This shouting is to state legislators, local politicians, business owners, property owners, residents, visitors and many others within a community.  This advocacy also belongs to the local effort doing Main Street…believing in the principle of locally controlled decisions based upon the wants and needs of the local community.  Main Street is a volunteer lead, volunteer driven, locally empowered organization doing economic development while preserving a community’s historic assets.  If you believe in this idea, then Main Street is for you!

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What does community development mean to you?  In the Main Street world, community development is economic development with a historic preservation emphasis.  This translates into developing customers, places, resources and businesses – a comprehensive focus.  Over 2,000 communities across the country utilizing Main Street and its principles can’t be wrong.  So if your community hasn’t already invested in Main Street, how do you get started?

There are many ways to get started but the easiest is to utilize Missouri Main Street’s Affiliate Grant Program.  This program is a two-year, hands-on platform to assist with establishing or jump-starting a Main Street program in the community.  It can either help with building the organization from scratch including by-laws and 501(c)3 filing or help an already created organization implement the Main Street Four-Point Approach® to revitalization.  In both scenarios, the Affiliate Grant Program assists with gathering feedback and buy-in from the community, provides direction in creating priorities, and trains the organization and community on the Main Street principles.  The hands-on approach and two years of consultation in the community reduces the learning curve so the revitalization process can take hold much quicker than without the Affiliate Grant Program. 

In the last three years, over 16 communities have completed or are currently in the program.  Blue Springs graduated from the program in 2013, hired their first executive director in 2014, and attained the Associate Tier level by 2015.  Board member and newly hired executive director, Cindy Miller, has shared that “the formula provided by Missouri Main Street provides the structure that enables a group of people to work together.  Structure is the key to the success of any project and the Affiliate Grant Program provides just that.”

Since 2008, the Affiliate communities have experienced over $28 million in redevelopment and rehabilitation in both the private and public sectors.  The Main Street program provides that structure and comprehensive approach to redevelopment which sets the stage for investors and entrepreneurship.  With development comes job creation, new businesses/expansion and increased property values, all items that contribute to the overall stability of the community. 

So as you look at your community, is it an asset or liability?  Look at your community from the perspective of a visitor, tourist, potential business owner or developer, new teacher, prospective manufacturer, or someone looking to relocate to your community.  Do they see empty storefronts or bustling sidewalks?  Crumbling buildings or rehabilitated structures?  Dirty windows and unkempt sidewalks or neat landscaping and benches for shoppers? 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has” is a quote by Margaret Mead that we use to demonstrate the power of the local community.  Someday is here…what are you waiting for?

The next Affiliate Grant Workshop is March 9, 2016, in Jefferson City.  To participate in the program, someone from the community must attend the workshop.  This workshop is free to attend but an RSVP is required.  Find more information here

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As our Main Street leaders depart from a meeting with the White House on rural placemaking, it reminds me that our downtowns provide a “living room” for the community. It is the gathering place for celebrations, protests, mournings and traditions. A lot has taken place these past few days that re-enforces that concept. The attacks in Paris have brought people to the public squares to mourn as a people but also to demonstrate resolve for the freedom to assemble. As we prepare for the holiday season of both Thanksgiving and Christmas, downtowns are preparing for lighting ceremonies and parades. 

Communities for centuries have used the public squares, courthouse lawns and city parks in downtowns to gather for all sorts of purposes. The town crier used to make announcements from the city center, election results were distributed from the courthouse steps, and funerals would wind through the downtown streets to the local cemetery. Today’s downtowns provide the same opportunities with parades through downtown streets, movies on the courthouse lawn, music in the park and festivals lining the streets. All of these activities bring a community together to get to know one another better, to have neighborly conversations, and to cordially debate local and national issues face-to-face instead of from behind a computer screen. We need these downtown outlets for a community to be a community. So, get out there and enjoy your community’s living room.

(This blog post also reminds me of the awesome experience I had to spend some time with my community in Kansas City to celebrate the Kansas City Royals winning of the World Series. I joined the over 800,000 neighbors that gathered with their families in the city center—our living room in Kansas City—to celebrate our boys in blue. And I might add that with over 800,000 people gathered, only three non-neighborly folks were arrested for misbehaving. So again, get out and enjoy your downtown living room.)

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Last week while visiting the great folks at Moberly Main Street, I had the opportunity to hear author and revitalization maverick Ron Drake. Ron wrote the book Flip This Town and has been a speaker/presenter at National Main Street conferences in the past. The Moberly Chamber of Commerce hosted Ron as the keynote speaker at their annual dinner and I was invited to sit at the Main Street table…thank you Moberly Main Street. 

 

Ron grew up in California where he was in the construction business. After visiting Siloam Springs, Arkansas, he fell in love with the community and moved there where he began buying, fixing and selling properties. Having never been a commercial property owner or developer myself, it was very insightful to hear about revitalization from the developer’s perspective. 

 

From the presentation in Moberly, you can tell that Ron loves properties and he details his passion in his book where he talks about the ability to see through the walls. Ron can see through the botched renovations or previous “upgrades” that hide the building’s details. Through his restorations, Ron uncovers those features and brings back the true character of the building. 

 

One of his first building rehabilitations was a two-story residential building that suffered damage from a fire. Ron saw the potential and turned it into a multi-family apartment showcasing the character of the building while adding in his own creative touches. The building also served as Ron’s office before it was sold this past month. 

 

Ron shared that these projects don’t have to be expensive. He is the master of finding cheap ways to transform properties into hip, classy places that people want to live, shop or eat. He likes to reuse and recycle materials to give a unique look to his restorations. 

Ron talked about and shared many of his success stories. As the years passed, he moved to larger and larger projects. He shared his best and worst project, the Creekview Flats. He was denied financing, a first for him. Every day he was asked about the project and felt his past success had prepared him for this rehab. After convincing his wife’s boss to back the project, work began on creating high-end apartments. He went over budget and removed too much of the building’s historic nature by adding an overdose of artistic bling. Even with these issues, the project was a huge success because it garnered local, regional and national attention highlighting the turn-around taking place in Siloam Springs. 

 

When working on a project, Ron uses his “preservation made practical” approach. If you think about how different entities/people look at a historic building, nothing will ever get done or it will be more costly. Electrical inspectors want all new wiring, the building inspectors want a more secure foundation or new plumbing, and the banker wants a good termite inspection and positive cash flow. His “preservation made practical” approach first looks at the structure of the building and then designs the restoration around a practical, affordable, creative and vibrant plan. Some properties were more historically accurate while others were more simple and practical. 

 

Ron’s development work didn’t happen in a vacuum. Ron began working with the Siloam Springs Main Street program. In his book, Flip This Town, he outlines the actions taken by the program to spur the revitalization process forward and to the next level. They:

  1. Became part of the Arkansas Downtown Network, the state-wide program.
  2. Took advantage of every training opportunity offered by the state Main Street program.
  3. Aligned themselves with the Siloam Springs Chamber of Commerce.
  4. Attended city council meetings.
  5. Started meeting with large corporations in Siloam Springs.
  6. Visited every business in downtown and asked “what can we do for you?”
  7. Hired a full-time director.
  8. Applied and was approved to become an official state Main Street program.
  9. Became the “go-to” organization in Siloam Springs.
  10. Started seeing the fruits of their hard work with growth in businesses, events and life.

 

The culmination of these factors lead to Smithsonian Magazine naming Siloam Springs as one of the 20 Best Small Towns in America in 2012. As Ron would say, Siloam Springs was an overnight success that took over six years. 

 

Ron Drake now serves as a consultant sharing the successes and inspiration of Siloam Springs. Ron is passionate about what he does and loves to share his story. You can find out more on his website at http://rondrakeconsulting.com/. You can also pick up his book at your local bookstore or on his website. Ron is a true inspiration and you can bet Siloam Springs is on my “to visit” list.  

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We will use this space to uphold our mission, which is to provide communities with knowledge and tools to economically and physically revitalize their downtown.

 

Missouri Main Street Connection is part of the National Trust’s nationwide Main Street® Program that works to ensure that downtown districts are essential elements to their sense of community, their cultural heritage and to the total economy of their individual cities and states. Downtown revitalization is encouraged through economic development within the context of historic preservation. The primary purpose of a local and statewide Main Street® Program is to ensure the long-term success of the downtown by creating, educating, training and empowering a comprehensive, professional, volunteer-based downtown revitalization organization. 

 

Wow, that seems like a tall order but we do this everyday through the Main Street network of volunteers, board members, managers, business owners, property owners and city/county government officials…and want this blog to be another avenue to continue this work. We will work towards this mission through the sharing of stories, photos, examples and links to assist our Missouri downtown communities in their work of revitalizing. We will site examples from our communities and share their best practices.

 

We have some great folks working in our downtowns and they have much to share on their hard work. Currently there are six Accredited Communities, three Associate Communities, eleven Affiliate Grant Communities and fourteen Affiliate Communities – so we have some great folks ready to share their expertise.

 

We, as staff, will also share some of the exploits of our travels around the state. We will also utilize our great board and advisory board members to share knowledge and information related to the Four Points. So much great information and we will try to put it into the context of the Main Street Philosophy.

 

Please share your thoughts and advice as we share these blog posts. We want this blog to be interactive. That is the essence of Main Street – sharing information and expertise and we need your feedback to be successful. We look forward to this new journey and relationship and welcome you along for the ride.

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