We love historic downtowns!

Enhancing the economic, social, cultural and environmental well-being of historic downtown business districts in Missouri.

Public and Private INVESTMENT

$1000000000

Net new businesses

834

Net New jobs

4109

volunteer hours

444113

Designated Missouri Main Street communities report economic impact in their districts each quarter. Cumulative totals for the program.

 

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Logan Breer

Communities of every size have buildings they consider ‘white elephants’ that are hard to tackle. For Cape Girardeau, it was the old Marquette and H&H buildings. until a locally-led effort brought Old Town Cape, the City of Cape Girardeau, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and developer such as Codefi and other local developers together. This partnership led to the rehabilitation that won the “Best Large-Scale Project” in 2019. Since the completion of this large-scale project, the tide of economic success has swept across the downtown district and raised the boats of many small businesses as well as given others reason to set their own boats asail on the adventure of starting their own business or renovating their own property.


The accomplishments that the project has achieved in the community are outstanding both on an economic and preservation standpoint. Coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program at Southeast Missouri State University, Dr. Steven Hoffman, made this remark about the project’s historical integrity:

               “Both properties have outstanding architectural features from the early 20th century that were neglected due to the time, money, and work it takes to own a building. Thankfully by using historic tax credits and following the Secretary of Interior’s Standards, the project was able to be publicly and privately funded to restore this amazing building that has an incredible amount of detail that cannot be matched by modern construction.  For instance, the tile and furnishings call back to its previous life while the cornice that had been previously removed was rebuilt.”

 

Public and private funding is an important aspect of Main Street because when used together they can get projects moving in the right direction by using tools like the historic tax credit and Tax Increment Financing (TIF). The impact that rehabilitating an old building is huge because of the revenue generated from businesses utilizing it for commerce as well as increasing property value—far exceeding the revenue beforehand. Former Cape Girardeau Mayor, Bob Fox, made this remark about the project’s economic impact:

“The Marquette and H&H building rehabilitation was a game changer for Cape Girardeau. It took the Marquette, which was a difficult building to rehabilitate due to it being all concrete, and the H&H and turned them into a space that now welcomes visitors from all over to downtown. The hotel houses many businesses and organizations in amazing offices spaces equipped with conference rooms for collaboration.”


 

The block that these properties sit on is now alive thanks to the development that used these two fantastic, historic buildings and breathed new life into them with help from the local community. That is one of the many distinctions of Main Street, that it is not just developers making money by putting a building back in service, but that the community has an integral part as a partner to inject new life into and invest in downtown. 

 

Main Street also has a comprehensive mindset that guided the connector of this development, Old Town Cape, to identify 3 components for this property, which were space, technology, and talent. Executive Director of Old Town Cape Liz Haynes remarked:

“The available building [that is the Marquette building] would house a commercial space to be a hub for the Marquette tech district. After renovating the over 1,450 sq. ft. Marquette building, installing state of the art fiberoptic and Wi-Fi for the downtown Cape Girardeau area, and partnering with Codefi to provide training for tech focused careers, we could start to see the impact right away. Everyone started to look at downtown as a viable location to start their business because of access to high speed Wi-Fi for businesses which came as an amenity provided by this development. Like the saying goes everyone wants to be a part of a winning community.”


Old Town Cape has reported 4+ new business opening downtown especially in the blocks surrounding the development with more still to come. While many times Main Street is about a bunch of small efforts building into big change, Old Town Cape shows us that in some special cases, with just the right property and partners, a big project can be a catalyst for a bunch of smaller projects to build on the success of Main Street. This is a perfect example of how the heart of Main Street, historic preservation, can save and rehab a vacant property that impacts local job markets and supports small businesses. 

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of Main Street. From the board of directors to committees to event volunteers, each community member that volunteers in Main Street is a Rockstar! Not only are they coming together to revitalize their downtown, reinvigorate their community, and cultivate a place to live, work, and play, they are making an economic impact! Volunteers make a significant economic impact in their community through the donation of their time and skill. The Independent Sector values volunteer time in Missouri at $27.21 (as of April 2022).


Downtown Washington has nominated Kenny Pinnell for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. This nomination enters Kenny into the running for Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in August. The nomination from Downtown Washington was submitted by Tyler King:

“Kenny, a longstanding volunteer and board member for Downtown Washington, Inc., embodies what a true volunteer is all about. He shows up to EVERYTHING and does a lot of behind the scenes work when no one is watching. One particular reason I am nominating him is when we have events at our downtown Farmer's Market, Kenny is always the one making sure all electrical outlets are updated and working, making sure the ice machine is cleaned and ready to go, setting up and communicating with our outside vendors to make sure they are welcomed and well attended to, having trash bags on hand when no one can find any, and always keeping us on our toes with reminders at the office when things we forget about need to be done. We enjoy his laugh, his stories, and his presence. This isn't a one-time off when we spy great work; Kenny is always doing great work and needs to be recognized for all of his efforts.”

 

Kenny is not the only one volunteering in Downtown Washington. Downtown Washington reported 9,712 hours of volunteer time in 2021 equating to $264,263.52, a huge community investment in downtown!

 

Missouri Main Street Connection recognizes the time it takes and sacrifices made to volunteer time at a nonprofit and along side our local Main Street programs thank everyone who has volunteered with Main Street. Though I Spy Great Work is currently closed, if you see individuals in your community that are completing great work, contact your local Main Street program and recommend them to be highlighted by the local Main Street program or Missouri Main Street Connection in the future. 

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Excelsior Springs is a historic town that has chosen to cultivate the arts and entertainment in their community. This focus is why we have chosen to highlight them in celebration of 1 Billion & Rising with the story of how they saved and filled a vacant old church, developed a community asset, and provided the perfect place for a quality community theater to call its home. This project contributed to Missouri reaching $1 Billion in public and private investments.


The building at 114 North Marietta sat empty for a long time after the Marietta Baptist Church closed its doors. As time went by, the building remained vacant and deteriorated, as many old buildings do. The former church, built in 1903, began to face challenges that many long-time vacant buildings do, which made it less appealing for potential tenants resulting in it being classified as blighted. Thankfully, through a partnership in the DREAM initiative between the City of Excelsior Springs and the Downtown Excelsior Partnership, the building saw several major improvements using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to get it ready for the right tenant. The extent of the work that was done included a new roof, paint, electrical, HVAC, and various other small things.

 

 


With the building stabilized, it was ready for a buyer to continue the rehabilitation work to their own specification. Downtown Excelsior Partnership put the property on the market. The Slightly Off Broadway Theatre was looking for a new home, viewed the building, and fell in love the character and space it provided. The building became Slightly Off Broadway’s new home after six years of traveling performances following the loss of their original home in 2004. Kristi Shewell, the Board President and Resident Office Manager of Slightly Off Broadway Theatre, remarked “This building is truly perfect for us. The acoustics were good and we continue to optimize the quality of our sound through the carpet we installed and the baffles along the walls and on the ceiling. With the space this building provides, we were able to enclose the balcony for a place for our band to perform when they are not needed on stage.”

 

 


The development that went into this building has not only helped with recruiting businesses to grow the downtown district in the early 2000’s, but it also continues to draw people Downtown and contribute to Downtown Excelsior Springs’ nightlife. Even more, through partnering with Downtown Excelsior Partnership for their events, the theater has been able to host street performances on their off weekends and provide other entertainment downtown in seeing a show! Slightly Off Broadway has a variety of offerings for their community to satisfy anyone’s theater needs including small musicals, large musicals, straight plays, comedies, mysteries, Christmas shows, music review shows, and even a kid’s theatre camp and special performance for their parents. The kid’s theatre camp is done in partnership with the Excelsior Springs school district and provides elementary, middle school, and high school students with the opportunity to learn theater skills like projection, behind the scenes tech, and how to audition. This is accomplished through a week-long camp that is 5 hours a day where parents can see the fruit of their child’s participation in a production on the last day.

 

 


The arts are a very important aspect of community culture and having a place to come together to laugh, cry, and find joy in stories being brought to life on stage is simply irreplaceable. The theatre continues to represent why the arts are important as they draw attendees from the community and across the region. Lyndsey Baxter, the Executive Director of Downtown Excelsior Partnership, remarked, “Thanks to the theatre, this pretty significant square space building which is extremely difficult for small retail to fill is being utilized to its fullest potential as they continue to plan on utilizing the whole building resulting in this great historic building not remaining vacant.” 

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After an exciting award for her renovation of the 104 S. Main Street building in Clinton, Missouri, Sarah Goth owner of The Bluebird Mercantile continues to exemplify the Main Street Approach™ for her community highlighting the importance of investing in their own community. Let’s go back to 2019 Clinton Main Street and Sarah Goth of The Bluebird Mercantile won the ‘Best Façade Rehabilitation, under $10,000’ award. Tina Williams the current Executive Director of Clinton Main Street shares the feelings and thoughts of the former Executive Director and board members in an interview with MMSC saying,

               “When it was announced Sarah, the owner, didn’t believe it. It was a wonderful thing for Clinton. Since our community is on the small side, we don’t expect that kind of recognition. It was nice to have this be recognized and shared with all the other Missouri communities.”


Winning this award was reinvigorating and acted as a catalyst for Clinton as it showed through hard work what could be done by its own property owners and businesses. Sarah and Tina shared that many on the east side of the Clinton Square have come to Sarah for advice on ways to save and learn from her experience in rehabilitating her building from the knob and tube wiring to restoring the shelving units and ceiling. There is so much to know about rehabilitating an old building and that is just what Sarah loves to share with her community. Her own experience provides her fellow business owners with a deeper understanding of what it takes and how to make it happen on a budget.


We would be remise if we did not highlight the touching story of how The Bluebird Mercantile got its start, as Main Street businesses don’t get their charm just from their old building, but the history and significance to its owner and community. Sarah has always dreamed of owning her own business since she was little and would say that what she wanted to do when she grew up was to own a retail store. Then, her father planted the seed for what kind of retail business she wanted to open after listening to what he would say about his wishes for Clinton, “My dad who was an economic developer in Clinton always wanted somewhere he could take people to get locally made Missouri products and products from the Clinton area that would highlight what Clinton has to offer.” The location she envisioned was 104 S. Main Street as it was once home to Simes Shoe Store, which her childhood neighbor owned, and had many fond memories of running up the loft stairs to pick up her shoes. With the location and type of business she wanted to open, the name came natural to Sarah, “The Bluebird Mercantile,” getting its name from the Missouri state bird that is featured on some of her Missouri products. The Bluebird Mercantile has become one of the quintessential places in downtown Clinton as it offers Main Street patrons a variety of things to discover.


Sarah’s story truly is why Main Street is important. Missouri Main Street sees Sarah as an amazing success story and uses this in spreading Main Street to more communities so that alongside local efforts we can continue to empower business owners to make a difference in their community, protect places that have memories for the community, and support the development of Missouri Main Streets as economic hearts of their community welcoming a diverse mix of businesses.


If you haven’t already watched the 1 Billion highlight of Sarah Goth and Tina Williams check out that video here: https://youtu.be/kz1IJ1GbhzM.

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Missouri Main Street Connection Inc. (MMSC) partnered with AARP Missouri in awarding $5,000 to five selected communities including Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street, Dutchtown Main Streets, Independence Square Association, Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization, and Clinton Main Street to make their resiliency projects, meant to inspire change and improve communities for all ages, a reality. As a result of the completion of these projects, each community has activated spaces in their communities, met the changes in evolving business climates, and bettered their downtowns while celebrating and encouraging inclusivity.


Independence Square Association – Liberty Lounge

The beginning of 2021 saw the completion of Independence Square Association’s Liberty Lounge with 400 volunteer hours being contributed by volunteers on this project. They made a place that provided social distancing while being an outdoor venue to gather. Their project included painted outdoor games for adults, painted activity zones for kids, picnic areas, seating, and a raised platform for live music. Former bank teller boxes were repurposed for catering of food and drink and as pop-up shop locations. QR scans were created to pull up menus from area restaurants and hand sanitizing stations to keep hands clean as social distancing occurs. They also created a mural that is gaining a lot of attention in their community!

 

Since the Liberty Lounge’s inaugural event, which included a performance by the Kansas City Symphony, –with the Kansas City Symphony returning in the spring for another free conference— the Liberty Lounge provided the space for the fourth annual Square Table, an evening to celebrate the historic downtown and raise money for continuing revitalization and beautification efforts in downtown Independence. It allowed for the outdoor performance of “A Selection of Shorts” and “Broadway Under the Stars” by the City Theatre of Independence.


Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street – 816 Building

In March of 2021, Downtown Lee’s Summit completed the latest evolution of their alley activation project that has been ongoing since they moved their office space to the alley in the fall of 2015. This once overlooked and neglected part of the downtown infrastructure is now equipped with public art and building improvements to more easily facilitate events and gatherings on nights and weekends for the office and their neighbors in the alley. Donnie Rodgers Executive Director of Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street said, “The overall impact has already been much greater than we envisioned. This project was a shot of optimism during a time when there wasn’t a lot of visible progress or improvements happening due to COVID-19.”

  

The alley activation project created a safer space for the public to gather for both small events and informal interactions. The project included:

  • the creation of an operable and artistic gate to allow for closure on nights and weekends to vehicular traffic;
  • the addition of new public art, specifically, a neon “816” constructed from reclaimed signage, creating a new photo opportunity that represents the community’s area code;
  • festival lighting to make the alley more inviting and safer in the evenings;
  • additional planters were installed as modular barricades and added additional greenery; and
  • a community-painted alley asphalt mural which created a fun environment and has helped aid in slowing down daytime traffic, by alerting divers that they have arrived in pedestrian shared space. The mural incorporated visuals to help patrons visualize how much 6 feet of space is to encourage safe, social distancing.

The success of this project has “already inspired possible future alley enhancements across downtown to help make for safer public events for all,” says Donnie Rodgers. Downtown Lee’s Summit has continued plans to utilize the potential of this space as “a pop-up event space.” 

 

Dutchtown Main Streets – Neighborhood Innovation Center

April 2021 saw the completion of Downtown Dutchtown’s transformation project of the Neighborhood Innovation Center parking lot into a multi-functional outdoor event space for families and businesses. This project included 150 volunteer hours and had additional donations from local vendors. The multi-functional transformation consisted of colorful sun sail shades that are easy to take down and put up, an outdoor event zone for hosting movie nights and supporting social distancing, an outdoor market zone that would be easy for merchants to setup and breakdown, and a communication information zone. 

 

This space will continue to support the needs of multigenerational families and neighborhood businesses, which it did not previously support. All Downtown Dutchtown’s businesses, non-profit organizations, and families can utilize and participate in the new outdoor event and market spaces. 


Clinton Main Street - JC Smith Park

In June 2021 the improvements to the JC Smith Park made by Clinton Main Street through their JC Smith Park Community Project were completed with over 115 volunteer hours. The JC Smith Park is a largely concrete area with benches, tables, a swing, sun shades, and two entry gates. Clinton Main Street implemented the community visitors’ vision in making this park more useful and accessible to the community and local businesses as well as made it more spatially ideal for social distancing. Since the addition of the sun shades that provided covered seating, lighting for evening events, and low planters which replaced sections of the fencing, more visitors have been able to move more easily in and out of the park. A sanitization station was also added which allows visitors around the Square a space where they can rest and sanitize.

When asked if the project had an impact on the district, Tina Williams, Executive Director of Clinton Main Street said, “It was how we envisioned! Already we are seeing an uptick in people using the park and feeling it is a welcoming space.”

  

JC Smith Park has already seen use in the celebration of Olde Glory Days and the Quilt Walk in downtown Clinton.

  

Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization – Roaming Parklet

The end of 2021 saw the debut of Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization’s (UJRO) ‘Roaming Parklet’ during the 2021 Christmas Parade in Jackson, Missouri. This project was unveiled to the community after months of dedicated volunteer work and coordination by UJRO with vendors and suppliers to complete their project. Developed off the grant winning rendering from Craig Milde, Design Committee chair and architect with Design + Advise, UJRO built a custom “Roaming Parklet’ from a tiny home frame that is lower to the street surface to allow fewer steps to climb and a shorter accessibility ramp. Furnishings including seating, bar top tables, and umbrella coverings when necessary to allow the ‘Roaming Parklet’ to be configured in different set ups according to the need of the business or special event. COVID-19 has made ordering tricky over the past year leading to several delays; however, UJRO continued to press on with the project and wait until all the pieces were ready for the project’s completion. 

 

Activating streets has been vital in many communities across America as changing business requirements during the pandemic required more space for shoppers and diners. To address these requirements, many communities allowed restaurants and businesses to expand into the streets, utilizing would-be parking spaces as new shared spaces that served as extensions of their businesses to form parklets and outdoor seating. This is great for communities that have the infrastructure to allow for these measures to not impede or restrict streets and sidewalk spaces in facilitating drivers and foot traffic. For the Uptown Jackson area, this presented its own challenges as community and merchant concerns grew about the idea of permanent parklets.  Therefore, UJRO developed this ‘Roaming Parklet’ that would rotate and park at all Uptown businesses allowing them shared access to this self-contained, mobile “parklet” providing the same amenities for each use at each business driving publicity and foot traffic. Not only will this ‘Roaming Parklet’ be utilized for special event space and pop-up markets, it also is planned to expand existing businesses’ storefronts and retail space for years to come.  


This is a big win for the uptown district and businesses as this will allow UJRO to inspire further revitalization and activation through the ‘Roaming Parklet’ by testing areas in the district for further enhancement and aligning UJRO’s anticipated comprehensive landscape plan in lieu of the routine builds and removal of semi-permanent parklets. 

 

These projects were completed by communities in 2021 and have become inclusive spaces for their communities where people can come together safely and enjoy their community. These projects demonstrated the importance of looking at spaces in our historic downtowns through the Main Street Approach™ using each of the four points (organization, economic development, design, and promotion) to strategically think of answers to the concerns and needs of the community. Each community created more than just another event space as they created multi-use spaces that provide places to gather together safely and contribute to the “stickiness” of their downtown to keep people in the district longer. These projects also serve as facilities for small businesses and entrepreneurs to use to get their business started, test new markets through pop-up shops, and spaces that can display, feature, and celebrate the culture and arts found within the district. Missouri Main Street Connection is looking forward to what else happens at these great, activated spaces for years to come.

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The winter holiday season can be full of family and community traditions. Families around Missouri partake in amazing activities that are a part of their holiday celebration and form memories for everyone old and young. Communities like Lee’s Summit deck out their downtown with lights throughout the district but especially their downtown Howard Station Park. Every year it is covered with candy canes hanging along the fence.




Downtown Lee’s Summit has nominated Nate Moore and Boy Scout Troop 1264 for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. This nomination enters Nate Moore and Boy Scout Troop 1264 for Volunteer of the Year at the 2022 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in August. The nomination from Downtown Lee’s Summit Main Street was submitted by Donnie Rodgers:

  


“The candy canes along the fence in Howard Station Park have been a part of the holiday tradition in Downtown Lee’s Summit for nearly 30 years and would not be possible without Boy Scout Troop 1264. We want to wish a special thank you to Nate Moore and Boy Scout Troop 1264 for keeping a downtown tradition alive for years to come. As part of Nate’s Eagle Scout project this year, he restored and built additional candy canes to hang. These candy canes have been maintained by Boy Scout Troop 1264 and were part of prior Eagle Scout projects.”



Missouri Main Street Connection is happy to see youth in a community take ownership of their downtown’s traditions and find ways to enhance them. Traditions are an important binder as they connect us all by shared memories formed from the tradition and it is important to pass them to the next generation. This allows them to take that tradition and add their unique perspective to it. When people are allowed to participate in the perpetuity of a tradition it brings vitality and strength to have it withstand time in a meaningful way.

 


If you see individuals in your community that are completing great work contact your local Main Street program and recommend them to be nominated for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. Anyone who has volunteered and gone above and beyond, donated something spectacular, or is a hear warming volunteer story is applicable for ‘I Spy... Great Work’. A local Main Street Board can submit approved submissions through the website

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Photography is one of the greatest tools a Main Street program can use in continuing their great work. Words often associated with photography are preservation, documentation, evidence, proof, and memories. These words coalesce what distinguishes Main Street from other groups and non-profits; that is its focus and dedication on preserving the historic character of downtowns as the heart of the community through its central location and hub for entrepreneurs, businesses, events, and more. It is this historic character that draws people in through a sense of living and visiting a unique place.

This intersection between photography and Main Street centers on its mission to record, document, and preserve a community’s life and patrons. Without pictures, we would know very little about the look of our Main Streets from the 1900s, but because the time and effort people took in the past to photograph what they did we have a better picture of what Main Streets looked like in the past and how vibrant they were. There are many famous pictures you see today that portray the mundane, people’s normal lives or regular buildings of that time that we now reflect back on and cherish as part of our community’s past. It is imperative that we continue what our predecessors have done and document the work we do for others to reflect on and become inspired by in years to come.


Four Benefits from Documenting Main Street Preservation


Showing Impact: Photographs and recorded materials can be used in reports provided to stakeholders, donors, partners, or city and county officials to demonstrate the impact and return on investment Main Street has in communities through the work of its citizens. Words and numbers do a good job at communicating what we need them to, but a photo truly is worth a thousand words with what can be conveyed. These reports include annual reports, partnership brochures, stakeholder brochures, etc. Wait and see just how you can spur new investment by capturing and sharing how you have used past investment wisely and for community benefit.

 

Promotion of District and Main Street Organization: Photograph your events, volunteers, and other Main Street activities to include in your promotional campaigns and materials. Focus on capturing candid moments and event photography that people can cherish, look back on, and enjoy. Also, consider how your photos can communicate a sense of place by capturing your streets and buildings in streetscapes, landscape, or cityscape photography.

Preservation: Capturing moments in history show to people what and how spaces used to be in decades past and today for future generations. These photos can showcase your district’s unique buildings and architectural features and use drone footage to show the entire district and the changes that happen with infill or empty lot activation. Add an annual pictoral survey of your district into your action plan so that you make time to document the changes.

Grant Writing: Photographing the before, during, and after of your projects are important records that are asked and required for grant writing and reporting. For example, under the Historic Tax Credit programs offered at the state and federal levels before work starts pictures are requested for the application to show the current condition and pictures during the project, after completion, and in use for documentation.

 

Tips for Photographing Main Street

 

  • Take as many photos as you can so you have an ample amount to pick the best from.
  • If you have access to a digital camera become familiar with its settings and use it over a phone to ensure a higher pixel density and quality.
  • Take pictures as often as you can of your district at events and minor and major projects to record the changes that happen to highlight all that is going on in your district.
  • Consider different angles and perspectives to capture the breadth of your district and all of the nooks and crannies.
  • Share your pictures so others may fall in love with your district.


How will you capture the heart of your district and its people to preserve and tell later on?

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