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



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Blog Home > Archive (August, 2022)
Ben White »

Exciting things are happening in Missouri Main Street Connection’s Community Empowerment Grant program! Currently, there are 16 communities receiving technical assistance through this program. The Community Empowerment Grant helps develop a strong Main Street board of directors & program while establishing strategies & implementation measures based on community feedback. The two newest communities accepted into the Community Empowerment Grant program are Grain Valley and Gallatin.

Grain Valley is a community of about 15,000 in eastern Jackson County. The City of Grain Valley and local partners have been heavily involved with revitalization efforts in the community. Recently, as part of those revitalization efforts, a survey was conducted asking for feedback on areas for future planning efforts. Downtown revitalization was one area repeatedly identified by respondents. With the community’s support, and in conjunction with local partners, the City of Grain Valley reached out to Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) and applied for the Community Empowerment Grant. Through the technical assistance and trainings provided through the Community Empowerment Grant, they will build a strong, sustainable organization to help lead downtown revitalization efforts. 



Pictured above is a building in Grain Valley’s commercial district which was provided by Grain Valley in their application.

Gallatin, the other community recently accepted into the Community Empowerment Grant program, is a community of about 1,700 and sits as the county seat of Daviess County. The City of Gallatin has been working with building and business owners concerning the direction of the downtown area and determined it was time to reach out to MMSC for assistance. With financial assistance from the Greenhills Regional Planning Commission, the City of Gallatin applied and was accepted into the program. In Gallatin, there is already a dedicated organization working to revitalize the downtown area, so MMSC is working with this organization to transition it into a comprehensive, Main Street-focused organization.



Pictured above is several of their storefronts on their commercial district which was provided by Gallatin in their application.


Each community showed, through its application and in conversations with various stakeholders in the community, how they were poised to implement the Main Street Approach ™ in their respective downtowns. MMSC is excited to bring technical services to each community and watch the growth of their downtowns. 

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Main Street America has updated the criteria for accreditation of local Main Street programs. Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) has been working with its local programs to ensure they are ready for the official launch of the new accreditation standards in 2024. The national criteria changed from ten standards to only six standards with a consolidation of some criteria and an emphasis on people, collaboration, and impact measurement built into the new criteria. MMSC started introducing the changes two years ago with a self-assessment in 2021 and 2022. An on-site visit took place in August that tested the application of the new criteria which MMSC introduced as a pilot program to test the new criteria in person with Main Street America staff visiting ten Missouri Main Street programs.

Seven Accredited and three Associate tier Missouri Main Street programs were visited during the weeks of August 15 - 22, 2022. While most of the visits were educational and didn’t alter the designation of accreditation, Downtown Joplin Alliance asked to be evaluated for accreditation.

Cape Girardeau, Chillicothe, Excelsior Springs, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, Warrensburg, and Washington are currently accredited with Clinton, Independence, and Joplin at the Associate tier, a few steps away from accreditation. 

Each visit to these communities included Norma Rameriz de Miess, Vice-President of Revitalization Services, and Keith Winge, MMSC’s State Community Development Director. The team spent about seven hours with each Main Street program’s leadership, staff, volunteers, partners, and city officials to learn more about the program’s successes and areas for growth or opportunities for advancement. These observations were shared in a presentation to each program’s board of directors and partners to assist in planning and action steps for implementation at the end of the visit. Overall, Norma was impressed with implementation of the new standards reflecting the partnerships and collaboration to make each community’s downtown a vibrant place. Areas that were recommended the most for further development in many of the local programs were related to volunteer engagement, packaging the measured impact of Main Street locally, and partner support efforts.



Downtown Joplin Alliance was reviewed this year with an eye on accreditation. The local Main Street program has been working to impact downtown Joplin since 1989 with some ups and down through the years. The organization reached out to MMSC in 2017 to help them focus their efforts using the Main Street principles. The board was strengthened and the committees re-energized. Now, vacancy is low, partnerships are strong, and a contract for services secured with the city. Downtown Joplin Alliance’s hard work has paid off as Main Street America and Missouri Main Street bestowed accreditation on the eighth Main Street program is Missouri.

Main Street America will be back in 2024 to assess the Accredited and Associate communities once again in Missouri Main Street tier system, when the new standards will be fully implemented nationwide. This timeline allows local Main Street program and their community to further use the standards in improving their downtown revitalization efforts. MMSC will work with its local programs to provide technical and organizational services that help them make a bigger impact for the various stakeholders within the downtown and community as a whole.

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The last in-person conference Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) hosted was in St. Louis (2019) before the pandemic spread across the country. With 2020 postponed and 2021 hosted virtually, MMSC staff set their eyes on making 2022 the return of Missouri’s’ Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference. The conference theme “Places Reimagined” highlighted the work that districts had completed in reimagining their public spaces to provide their community what they needed during the pandemic. Especially with grants from MMSC and our partner AARP, the Community Resiliency Grant allowed five districts to active spaces in their community to meet the changes in the business climate and better their downtowns while celebrating and encouraging inclusivity. ‘Placed Reimagined’ also highlighted the changes in how spaces have been and will continue to be used as a result of the pandemic. These changes have encouraged Main Streets to examine how spaces are set up to serve their communities. ‘Places Reimagined’ just worked to bring all of these ideas together. MMSC was determined to create the place for our communities to be able to come together and learn after three years of being away from an in-person conference experience. And boy did we come back with a bang!


From the start of conference there were many things to partake in. On August 3rd, while many local program directors and their support staff arrived to take part in their monthly directors meeting and a semiannual support staff meeting, attendees who arrived early and could take part in two different concurrent educational tours the “Educational Walking Tour of Kansas City Crossroads” or the “Educational Guided Scavenger Hunt Through Downtown Kansas City.” These tours provided a way to explore the unique sites, architecture, and commercial districts of Downtown Kansas City and the Crossroads Arts District. The Educational Walking Tour of Kansas City Crossroads was popular as it toured the diverse, mixed-use community full of galleries, restaurants, locally-focused retail, technology, and design firms. Participants got to see firsthand several historic tax credit adaptive reuse projects and speak with representatives on how they accomplished their project as well as visiting Union Station and the Freight House Pedestrian Bridge.


MMSC board member Bill Emmons had this to say about the new perspective he gained of Kansas City Crossroads, “I’ve been to Kansas City many times, but I never knew there was so much vitality in the Crossroads district. It’s exciting to see old spaces become new and inviting places for entertainment, artistic expression, offices, and housing. There’s even a stylish new place to stay or hold meetings, the Crossroads Hotel. This luxury hotel is a re-imagined version of the Pabst Brewing Depot, which was built in 1911.”



Randy Greeves, one of the conference volunteers, accompanied attendees on the tour through the Kansas City Crossroads District and said this, “Having never been to Kansas City before I was fortunate to go on the Crossroads tour. I got to see many of the beautiful examples of architecture in downtown KC as well as getting to speak to some of the people responsible to revitalizing important areas, and creating a safe and beautiful place to residents to enjoy. This conference was a wonderful opportunity and experience for me, and I look forward to volunteering again!”


Community and commercial district tours are a great way to see what a different district is doing and take that back to discuss with your board, volunteers, and community. Almost any idea can be scaled to fit a community’s size, resources, and cultural identity. Mitchell West the Board Vice-President of Main Street Albany stated, “Regardless of the size of a community or the resources available, the success of a community is always about the people.” Main Street is all about the people, because places aren’t places unless there are people.



Once conference officially started Thursday with the Welcome & Opening Assembly with Keynote Address you could feel the buzz in the air as Jason Roberts kicked us off with “Creating People-Centered Places.” Attendees bustled from room to room listening to sessions and also stopped at exhibitors in the expo hall, grabbed some refreshments during our beverage break, and networked with other communities and MMSC board members at our booth and Main Street Clinic. Cynthia Coffman, the director of Downtown Lebanon commented:

 “The Main Street Clinic was one of most the valuable aspects of conference. A board member and I utilized the expertise of the Main Street Clinic doctors to brainstorm possibilities for reimagining a historic preservation project that is a key property for our downtown business district. We’re now moving forward, using a list of resources and individual contacts provided by the Main Street Clinic doctors.”



We heard so many good things from attendees that approached us about the sessions they attended. Mackenzie Manring of Main Street Albany had this to say about the sessions and speakers, “Every speaker was knowledgeable and experienced in his or her field, and I was able to take away something of value from each breakout session I attended.” There were clearly a few favorites that attendees couldn’t get enough of which included: Jason Roberts’ Opening Keynote Address “Creating People- Centered Places”, Jackie Wolven’s session “Building True Community With Design Thinking”, Shelia Scarborough’s session “Get More Heritage/Culture Visitors into Small Towns: Social Media Content Ideas from the 8 Rural Culture Elements”, and Lily Clajus’ session “StoryMapping Main Street: Using Digital Place-Based Narratives in the Main Street Approach™” just to name a few.



The ShowMe Bash and Pitch Party was another great evening. Attendees brought the excitement of the confernce to Ophelia’s Restaurant and Inn in Downtown Independence to see great pitches for the Creative Space Activation Grant. Five communities were looking to win the $10,000 Creative Space Activation grant and presented their projects to the judges made up of MMSC board members. Delmar Main Street walked away as the winner with $10,000 for their Transit Wall Transformation Project. Their application and following pitch at the event highlighted the great need for the project in their district and the strong support they have. It was breathtaking.


The evening didn’t end there as after the Pitch Party the ShowMe Bash was just starting. Jeff Rodgers from Independence Square Association worked with his local groups to have first person interpreters, community members who performed and interacted with attendees as people from the past in historic costume dispersed throughout the district along with other activities including loft tours. Store owners also to stayed open late to have a great time for attendees to experience Independence, MO.



From across the Square you could see attendees experiencing what Independence has implemented in their district like self-watering planters that Mr. Rodgers and Historic River District Ozark, MO chatted about and St. Louis Main Streets programs enjoying their evening together.


The last big success was the finale of Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference being the Evening of Excellence Awards Ceremony & Dinner. This is always a special evening at our conference where MMSC presents awards to communities, businesses, and individuals to commemorate and honor their commitment to their district as well as the achievements of Main Street revitalization. This year was extra special with some of the award recipients.



Check out the Press Release section on our website to see all the awards that were handed out to communities. [www.momainstreet.org/press-releases/] One award was a surprise to everyone in attendance. Dr. Steven Hoffman, the MMSC Board’s Immediate Past President, received the Pioneer Award.

This award was awarded to Dr. Steven Hoffman for his service, dedication, passion, and support for Missouri Main Street Connection throughout its history as well as the entire state of Missouri. Steven’s unwavering passion and dedication has impacted many individuals and organizations not only in Missouri but throughout the country over the years.


As communities departed the conference, they took with them the knowledge and connections they gained to their communities to share with others. Main Street Albany Promotion Committee Chair, Tonya McCampbell had this to say about the conference:

“The annual conference was so inspiring and informational. It was definitely worth our board member and committee member's time. All four of us could not stop talking on our two hour rides to and from the conference about how many ideas from other communities would work so well with our community.  I know that Albany will be a better place after we implement a few things we learned at the conference... just wait and see!”

Katelyn Galloway, Promotion Committee Chair of Main Street Brookfield had this to say as well:

“I was able to take away useful information from each session that was presented. My favorite part about this conference was the ability to network and obtain ideas from other attendees with the same passions as myself. I am excited to implement some of the ideas in my own community that I acquired from the sessions and my peers. This was my first year attending, and it definitely will not be the last!”

As we take all the feedback provided by the session surveys and overall conference survey, we continue to make conference better each year for each attendee. MMSC is excited to see you in Saint Louis in 2023!

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The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant is a grant provided by the U.S. Economic Development Administration through Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) that continues to impact Missouri communities.

The impact of COVID, plight of the Pharaoh 4 Cinema in Independence, Missouri, and need for assistance was illustrated with poignant words in their Downtown Strong Grant application which resulted in the award of services. After being awarded the grant they would narrow their services in order to maximize the impact with their business’ capacity.



The story of the Pharaoh 4 Cinema is a decades long story of transformation where this independent movie house survived and changed with the tides of the industry. In 2006 they moved from a “dollar-movie house” to a first-run theater. Then in 2014, like many other independent movie houses across the county, they underwent a forced update on their projectors from film to digital, as the movie industry changed. They survived this huge financial undertaking and thought they had made it through their toughest time. However, the pandemic caught them off guard, just like everyone else.

Theaters were an industry hit hard by the pandemic when deemed unsafe to operate due to the potential spread of COVID. Pharaoh 4 Cinema found itself in a vulnerable position, but they knew there were innovative paths to engage with consumers. If it wasn’t for the Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant, they may not have been able to implement new strategies. The grant has opened the opportunity to navigate how to operate during this era of individualized technology.

Cindy McClain, from the McClain Restaurant Group who manages Pharaoh 4 Cinema, said, “Theaters hold an important place in our culture, in our communities, and our hearts. They are truly magical places; our theater is no different” in their application. They just needed help in continuing to make the magic happen.

Pharaoh 4 Cinema worked with BOLD Marketing to improve their website and provide online sales as well as develop opportunities for additional income. Dana Thomas at BOLD worked diligently to provide a website that was functional, easy to navigate and update, and included opportunities for advertising and theater rental. In addition to incorporating on-line ticket sales, BOLD worked with the Pharaoh staff to develop specific opportunities that could be included on the website.  In addition, she developed collateral materials and then helped them promote these opportunities in other ways. This project required working with multiple vendors and became quite challenging, but BOLD was able to work through the problems, train the Pharaoh staff, and provide troubleshooting in the first few weeks of implementation.



As with so many of the Downtown Strong grants, the service provided went far beyond the expectation. This was not just the development of a website or ideas on helping increase sales. It changed the way Pharaoh 4 Cinema could do business, taking back ownership and full control over their website. It is just one of their tools, but one that will help them overcome their past challenges and “make magic” happen into the future.


The services included in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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