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

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Blog Home > Archive (May, 2023)

Sending people to a conference can be a big investment when you consider the hotel, travel, and conference registration costs, especially when sending multiple people. While the cost of this investment may look big upfront, there is a huge return on investment for communities of any size through the energization of volunteers and staff and the generation of new ideas and connections to make local Main Street efforts more fruitful. For Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference hosted in St. Louis in 2023, communities have many potential opportunities available to them to help reduce the price of attending conference.

Missouri Main Street Connection Scholarships

Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) recognizes that for some programs the investment of coming to the conference can be a barrier, that is why we work with partners to offer scholarships to select communities where our missions overlap. If your community has an agreement with MMSC, keep an eye out for communications coming from our staff about scholarships that we have available for you. Another opportunity to communities that have reached the Accredited and Associate levels in MMSC’s tier system is a free scholarship to support the work they are doing and to reward their implementation of the Main Street Approach™. This is a big perk for rallying support in programs just starting for their benefits from MMSC that come in through execution of the Main Street Approach™.


Local Partners

Looking inside your community is another place you can find funding to cover conference registration costs, sometimes in surprising places. Organizations and companies that have supported Main Streets in the past include local service clubs like: Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, and Kiwanis Clubs; Local Banks; utility companies; and the Chamber of Commerce. Reaching out to make that initial connection is sometimes all it takes, though it is the simplest but often most intimidating step. We hope the words of MMSC’s State Director Gayla Roten, who was the local director of the Branson Main Street program before becoming the State Director of MMSC, always says, “We don’t have because we don’t ask” can inspire you. Take these words of encouragement and start a conversation by setting aside the fear of potential rejections.

Another MMSC staff member who has experience in securing funding during their time as a local director is Keith Winge, currently MMSC’S State Community Development Director. When Keith was on staff as the Executive Director of Downtown Excelsior Partnership (DEP) roughly a decade ago, he partnered with the Rotary Club of Excelsior Springs to help send himself to the state conference. Keith Winge recalled,

“MMSC shared a list of places where Main Street programs could potentially find money and the Rotary was on the list which would have never crossed my mind in the first place. I reached out to a Rotarian with information about how attending the Conference would help me develop as a Main Street professional and grow DEP’s positive impact on our community and they were in.”


There are many options open to your local Main Street program to discover funding that can assist in helping community members attend conference, you just have to know where to look and not be afraid to ask. Missouri Main Street Connection has created a sample letter and flyer that you can use to start these conversations with potential partners in your community.

Download the Sample Letter Here.

Download the Scholarship Flyer Here.

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Ben White »

Historic Preservation, as it pertains to Main Street efforts, is a collective effort to protect and preserve the historic character and heritage of a downtown area. It involves the involvement of community members, local organizations, and government entities to protect historic buildings, landmarks, and cultural sites, as well as promote the overall revitalization and sustainability of the downtown area.


May is designated as Preservation Month by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as a month of celebration and advocacy. As May comes to an end the advocacy, celebration, and hard work to preserve the historic character and heritage of our historic commercial districts and downtown areas does not stop, here are some strategies to implement for downtown historic preservation efforts throughout the year:

Local Historic District Designation: Identifying and designating specific areas as historic districts helps ensure that the unique architectural and cultural features are preserved through local policy and enforcement. Local governments often establish guidelines and regulations for the preservation, restoration, and renovation of buildings within these designated districts.

Public Education and Outreach: Educating the community about the value of historic preservation is crucial. Workshops, seminars, walking tours, and educational programs can help raise awareness about the significance of historic buildings and their contribution to the community's identity and sense of place. 

Pictured Above: Students in Clinton, Missouri.

Partnerships and Collaboration: Collaboration between local government agencies, historic preservation organizations, community groups, and property owners is essential for successful preservation efforts. By working together, they can share resources, expertise, and funding opportunities to support preservation initiatives.

Incentives and Funding: Providing financial incentives, grants, and tax credits can encourage property owners to invest in the preservation and restoration of historic buildings. These incentives can help offset the costs associated with maintaining and rehabilitating older structures.

Design Guidelines and Regulations: Establishing clear design guidelines and regulations ensures that any changes or renovations made to historic buildings are in line with their original architectural style and character. This helps maintain the historical integrity of the downtown area. 


Pictured Above: Fossil Forge before and after in Lee's Summit, MO.

Adaptive Reuse: Encouraging adaptive reuse of historic buildings promotes their continued use and revitalization. Converting old buildings into new functional spaces such as restaurants, galleries, offices, or residential units can breathe new life into the downtown area while preserving its historical fabric. 


Pictured Above: Washington Farmers Market before and after in Washington, MO. 

Heritage Tourism: Promoting your Main Street’s heritage to attract tourists who enjoy vacationing or visiting locations with rich heritages can help generate economic benefits for the community while raising awareness about the historical significance of downtown. Cultural events, festivals, and guided tours can attract visitors, support local businesses, and create a sense of pride among community members.

Maintenance and Restoration: Regular maintenance and timely restoration of historic buildings are essential to ensure their long-term preservation. Encouraging property owners to undertake necessary repairs and providing technical assistance and resources can help in this regard. Missouri Main Street Connection has resources on building material and maintenance best practices and recently completed a webinar on these resources which can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KAAkfykBDA4

Documentation and Research: Conducting thorough documentation and research of historic buildings and sites contributes to a better understanding of the community's history and aids in preservation efforts. Archival records, oral histories, and archaeological studies help establish a comprehensive knowledge base for future preservation work. 


Pictured Above: Plaque next to a historic property in Warrensburg Main Street's district.


Advocacy and Planning: Active community involvement and advocacy play a vital role in preserving downtown's historic character. Engaging stakeholders, attending public hearings, and participating in urban planning processes can help influence policies and decisions that affect historic preservation.

By embracing these strategies, Main Street organizations can work towards the sustainable preservation of their downtown areas, protecting their heritage for future generations while fostering economic vitality and cultural pride.

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Starting a new program via a pilot creates many opportunities to learn, especially in the Main Street world. That is because the Main Street Approach™ is a model with distinct principles and methodology that forms the base of any Main Street program which then can be adaptively implemented to fit the needs of a community of any size. Missouri Main Street Connection has learned lessons, made connections, and had hard work pay off since starting the urban pilot program St. Louis Main Streets in 2019. There are now three Main Street districts that are participating in the St. Louis Main Streets program who are all working to improve their little part of the larger city by implementing the time-tested principles of Main Street.

Historic commercial districts of all sizes are different in their density, housing options, services, and public spaces, but they have similarities as they each can be the center of commerce or activities for the area population or community. Each district can bring people together, which is why Main Street as a tool fits perfectly in both rural and urban districts, as it is a community-led revitalization effort focused on the quality-of-life issues related to social, economic, physical, and civic themes – the Main Street Approach™. Some of the ways that Main Street districts of all sizes can revitalize or improve their district are:

  • Design: Enhancing the physical and visual assets of the district, such as improving the streetscape, signage, lighting, landscaping, and historic buildings.

Pictured Above: Mini-Façade Grant awarded to Queen’s Nail & Spa Salon by Dutchtown Main Street to promote exterior improvement of businesses that attract economic activity and show off great businesses.


  • Promotion: Creating a positive image of the district and attracting customers, investors, and visitors through events, marketing, branding, and social media.


Pictured Above: Performers at Downtown Maryville’s Art, Rhythm, and Brews event.

  • Economic Vitality: Strengthening the district’s economy by supporting existing businesses, encouraging new businesses, diversifying the mix of goods and services, and facilitating property development.


Pictured Above: Deli Divine opened in Delmar Main Street just off the corner of Delmar Boulevard and Belt Avenue in the Delmar DivINe building.


  • Organization: Building a strong foundation for the revitalization effort by cultivating partnerships, community involvement, leadership development, fundraising, and advocacy.


Pictured Above: Community members participating in break out groups during the Town Hall hosted in West Plains where they will decide on wildly important goals to be incorporated in the foundation of the Main Street program they are forming through the Community Empowerment Grant program.


In St. Louis, through community feedback and stakeholder input, Missouri Main Street Connection helped each district identify their unique competitive advantage, leverage the power of residents and local stakeholders, and identify a series of short and long-term projects.


Each of the St. Louis Main Streets districts faced various challenges and accessed different opportunities depending on their specific context and characteristics. Some of the challenges and opportunities were:



  • Competing with online shopping, big box stores, and suburban malls that offer convenience, variety, and lower prices.
  • Dealing with issues such as crime, safety, cleanliness, parking, traffic, and homelessness that may deter customers and investors.
  • Preserving the historic and cultural identity of the district while accommodating new development and growth.
  • Engaging and representing the diverse and often marginalized stakeholders of the district, such as residents, business owners, property owners, workers, and visitors.
  • Securing adequate funding, resources, and support from public and private sectors for the revitalization efforts.



  • Capitalizing on the unique assets and competitive advantages of the district, such as its location, architecture, history, culture, events, and niche markets.
  • Attracting and retaining customers, investors, and visitors who value the authentic, local, and human-scale experience of the district.
  • Leveraging the power of residents and local stakeholders who are passionate, creative, and committed to the district’s success.
  • Collaborating and partnering with other urban Main Street districts or organizations to share best practices, resources, and advocacy.
  • Innovating and adapting to the changing needs and preferences of the market and the community.


One of the early lessons was in recognizing partners and opportunities with the program. St. Louis Development Corporation, the Office of the Mayor, and Greater St. Louis Inc., each identified Main Street as a priority. These entities, with their priorities, have a unique role in helping each Main Street district accomplish their specific goals and priorities for the short and long-term as partners. The implementation work is just beginning in St. Louis and Missouri Main Street Connection is working with each district to help them realize their dreams and goals.

Pictured above: Group photo of in Laclede’ Landing.

While the pilot program is coming to an end in 2023, Missouri Main Street Connection’s work is not finished in St. Louis. Other urban commercial and neighborhood districts throughout St. Louis and the state have expressed interest in organizing a Main Street program, implementing the Main Street principles, and making change in their little part of a larger city. If you are interested in starting an urban Main Street program, check out the Urban Forum at Missouri Main Street’s Downtown Revitalization Conference in St. Louis. It will feature a Main Street America representative sharing urban success stories from across the country as well as each St. Louis District sharing their journey, accomplishments to date, and goals for the future. The Urban Forum will be on Wednesday, July 26th from 10am to 11:30am and is free to attend. If you are interested in attending the Urban Forum and learning more about urban district revitalization, please email us at info@momainstreet.org

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The Main Street Approach™ is a singular mission achieved through four points, six criteria, and countless focuses like a rope made up of many strands. Two criteria that show how celebrating a community’s heritage and traditions through displaying it in public spaces is baked into Main Street’s methodology as found in the new standards of Main Street America’s evaluation framework are “Preservation-based Economic Development & Broad-based Community Commitment to Revitalization” (Main Street America, Accessed May 18, 2023). Community, revitalization, and preservation are the three words found in these two criteria that distinguish Main Street from other economic development or revitalization efforts yet does not make local Main Street programs who utilize the Main Street Approach™ too unique to partner with other organizations and companies.


Downtown Monroe City Revitalization (DTMC), which is the local Main Street program for Monroe City, MO, is a perfect example of how to partner with another organization where there is mission overlap. They have partnered with their region’s association of REALTORS®, which is the Mark Twain Association of RELATORS® (MTAR). Debbie Kendrick, who is on the board of Downtown Monroe City as well as a REALTOR®, shared about the collaboration between the two groups which funded their “Rail & Ponies” mural by Ray Harvey of RayHarveyArt, “Both organizations are looking to have a lasting impact in communities by turning spaces into places. We used the overlap in our missions, including ‘community is the focus’ and ‘growth minded’, to our advantage and so should you” (NAR, Accessed May 18, 2023). The mural project was completed and formally dedicated on December 3, 2022 during DTMC’s Christmas Street Stroll event.



MTAR is also collaborating with Canton, MO for engineering drawings for a veteran’s memorial for their community. While MTAR serves their region in Missouri, Debbie Kendrick told us that every region in Missouri has a board of REALTORS® and encourages other local Main Street programs to get connected to their region’s association of REALTORS® for funding opportunities such as Smart Growth, placemaking and/or alley activation grants. She recommends the following steps if you are not currently connected with them:

  1. Reach out to and establish a relationship with a REALTOR® champion, this is a REALTOR® who is involved in community development and growth.
  2. Ask the REALTOR® champion to contact a local board of REALTORS® representative.
  3. Submit to your local board of REALTORS® the project you wish for them to apply to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The last bit of advice from Debbie is to make sure you review the criteria of the grant you are applying for to maximize your chances. If you would like to learn more about how to partner with REALTORS® come to St. Louis July 26 – 28 to hear Debbie Kendrick and Amanda Nemeth speak. You can register online at www.momainstreetconferece.com.

This article was prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) using, in part, the generous donations of Heritage Circle donors to support and provide an example of a community’s successful partnership focused on celebrating by displaying their heritage. If you would like to support MMSC so they can continue to provide resources, trainings, and services to Missouri’s communities to continue to preserve memories, celebrate local history, promote community values, create new memories, and embrace traditions, donate today at www.momainstreet.org/Heritage-Circle/

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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.

Over that past two years, MMSC and our team of consultants have been working with 16 Main Street organizations and 61 businesses in 20 communites across the state  to build more resilent economies and stronger downtowns.  The Downtown Strong: Building Resilient Economies grant services will be completed this September. As the grant nears it completion, the momentum it has created across the state is still growing. One of the recipients of the Downtown Strong Grant that demonstrates the long-lasting impact of receiving trailored services is Vision Carthage.

As a newer Main Street organization in Carthage, MO, Vision Carthage saw this grant as an opportunity to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic that their district had felt while fostering a stronger, more resilient downtown business environment. In the fall of 2021, they received assistance from Cygnet Strategies, LLC where a recruitment plan for local entrepreneurs to open new businesses downtown as well as a 2nd story development plan that explored options for utilizing the upper stories of buildings were developed. In 2021, a team from Cygnet Strategies traveled to Carthage where they assessed the district’s situation and talked to local leaders and business and property owners firsthand.

Based upon the observations of the team that visited Carthage, Vicky Soderberg, principal of Cygnet Strategies, recognized that many of the issues and ideas for improvement affected both business recruitment and upper story development in downtown Carthage and required strategies that worked complementarily together. Additionally, Vision Carthage had previously established a set of goals and strategies, including transformation strategies, as part of their organization’s development. She delivered an Analysis and Recommendations Report developed from the findings of their initial site visit that tied together the improvement strategies with the organization’s established transformation strategies, using an approach that understood the vast number of changing circumstances and growing list of needs not formerly identified.

Pictured Above: Vision Carthage’s ice-skating is a great opportunity for families to come downtown and have fun during Hometown Holidays.

The report outlined five targeted actions to strengthen Carthage’s downtown and its resiliency while building upon the already-identified, established, and developed community-based organizational strategies. She challenged the organization to:

  • Lead changes to regulatory frameworks and knock down barriers to doing business in Carthage.

  • Increase awareness of and advocate for development that goes beyond the first floor.

  • Outline and communicate a well-defined downtown experience to help businesses succeed and make residential development desirable.

  • Prioritize community development efforts that align with Carthage’s identity and vision.

  • Account for and articulate the value and impact of Vision Carthage via storytelling designed to enhance downtown visibility and awareness.


Cygnet Strategies went on to break down these actions into smaller, tactical steps that Vision Carthage could work through to accomplish the overall action goal.




The director of Vision Carthage at the time, Abi Almandinger, shared that having the team from Cygnet Strategies visit Carthage provided a fresh perspective and an outsider’s viewpoint that was invaluable. Since the site visit and report was delivered, Vision Carthage has had a transition in leadership with a new director. Jen Kirby, the new director, shared that having this report and its recommendations have been beneficial to her through the transition.  Not only has it provided an analysis that helped her in her learning curve, but it has also given her a tangible reference to use as she, the Board, and other volunteers make plans.  She noted it has been great to have something to use as a guide and a resource, knowing they are able to tweak the recommendations to fit their ever-changing needs and opportunities.

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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