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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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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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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AUTHOR
Ben White »

The path to $1 billion in public and private investment in Missouri Main Street downtown districts has been rich with diverse improvement projects funded by using various sources and funding options. Chillicothe’s use of available state financing options and pairing projects with local, private fundraising to complete large-scale projects provides a model for other Missouri Main Street communities. Two projects have really stood out using this funding model: Silver Moon Plaza and the purchase and renovation of the Main Street Building.


Silver Moon Plaza truly is a lemon to lemonade type of story. Due to disrepair and years of neglect three buildings unfortunately had to be demolished, leaving a large empty lot. The owner of the demolished buildings, who is also the owner of the Milbank Mills company, donated the land to Main Street Chillicothe. The organization and other community leaders quickly worked on developing a plan to turn the land into an area that could be used by the community.  This three-year project turned the once empty lot into a beautiful space that Main Street Chillicothe uses for events, cultural attractions, and so much more. This plan turned into the project that came to be known as Silver Moon Plaza, named after a product of Milbank Mills, Silver Moon Feeds. The funding for the project came from multiple sources in a true public-private partnership, a staple of the Main Street Movement. First, funding came from the Missouri Development Finance Board, a tax credit program focused on infrastructure and economic development projects. This was the catalyst for a $750,000 pocket park project. Additional funding came from private donors in the community that believed in this important project.

 



Another rehabilitation project that Main Street Chillicothe was able to complete and lead by example with the Main Street Approach™ was the purchase and rehabilitation of the Main Street building. This building, unfortunately, had become an eyesore at the entrance to downtown as the previous owner did not put the resources into the renovation of their building and preservation as a viable storefront for their interest and other business owners to come before Main Street Chillicothe purchased it.  This rehabilitation project utilized funding from the Neighborhood Assistance Program, a Missouri tax credit program focused on creating jobs and revitalizing buildings to economically benefit the community and its tax base. This $180,000 project not only beautified an entrance into downtown with a mural placed on the outside wall, but it provided funding for the organization through rental commercial space on the first floor and residential space on the second floor. This project fixed an eyesore and turned it into a real asset for the downtown.


State and federal funding can be important tools in the toolbelt for both organizations and building owners. One way to keep on top of available opportunities is to sign up for the monthly MMSC Grant Resource Directory; you can do that by signing up here: https://www.momainstreet.org/Grant-Resource-Directory/: Community projects, such as the two described above, take planning and buy-in from not only the Main Street program but district stakeholders. It is crucial to establish partnerships within the community to help with these large-scale projects. These elements are crucial to the Main Street Approach™ and successful, impactful revitalization. 

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Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) continues to celebrate the extraordinary accomplishment of over $1 billion in private and public investment in Missouri Main Street districts since 2006, when MMSC started recording this information.  This private and public investment over the past 15 years represents 2,812 improvement projects in Main Street downtown districts that includes building rehabilitations, new buildings constructed, buildings saved, new or renovated parks, updated streetscapes and sewers, and other miscellaneous projects that improved the district for residents, workers, and visitors. 


2020 was a year of projects for the Missouri Main Street network as many communities were affected by the pandemic leading them to not necessarily operate like normal yet still accomplished great things for their district. In fact, 2020 represented the third highest year of investment since 2006 in Missouri’s Main Street districts with a total of over $70.8 million dollars. Main Street communities Washington, Independence, and Marceline completed unique projects in 2020 that illustrate how Missouri’s Main Street programs continue to revitalize their districts through innovative projects, rehabilitations, and new buildings that meet the needs of residents, workers, and visitors.

 


Washington, Missouri

Downtown Washington, Inc. reported $9 million in investments in the downtown Washington district for 2020 making it a very good year of investment in their district.   Part of this $9 million investment was one large and transformative project, the conversion of their old International Shoe Factory into apartments.  This one project represented a large investment in new housing not only for downtown but for the community.  Many rural Missouri communities are in desperate need of more housing options and this project certainly will bring those much needed apartments to Washington.  The extensive rehabilitation added 85 new one- and two-bedroom apartments while keeping many of the architectural features of the old shoe factory which creates very unique living environment for the tenants. 

 


 

The new Shoe Factory Lofts offer high ceilings, exposed beams and brick walls, along with amenities like a fitness room, onsite laundry facilities, dog park, meeting room, and green space.

 


Independence, Missouri

Total public and private investment reported by the Independence Square Association in downtown Independence totaled $183,000.  One of those improvements was a building improvement at 111 North Main Street that included improvements for one of the buildings occupants an established brewery, 3 Trails Brewing, and also created space for a new business.  3 Trails opened their doors in February of 2019 with great success but much of the building was still empty. Therefore, in 2020, the storefronts were reconfigured to make room for additional businesses to open downtown. For communities that have a tight downtown district or have lost a portion of their historic building stock and able to utilize infill; reconfiguring storefronts offers the ability to allocate an existing buildings space in a way that allows for another business to open a storefront. One of those was Flying Horse Flatbreads.  This space was reimagined by adding a commercial kitchen into the new space along with seating.  Flying Horse Flatbreads already had a storefront in Waldo, a commercial district in Kansas City, and has now expanded to Independence bringing its signature flatbread to offer the patrons in March 2020.  Since opening, the Flying Horse Flatbread company has had a symbiotic relationship with 3 Trails as beer patrons now have a food option while enjoying their favorite brew.  

 

 


Marceline, Missouri

Downtown Marceline saw over $476,000 in private and public investment in 2020 representing 25 different and unique projects.  One of those projects was a much needed restaurant downtown.  Noted in the 2018 Community Master Plan created by MMSC, the community residents and visitors wanted more restaurant choices in Marceline and downtown had several vacant buildings that would be ideal locations for a new food choice.  Los Chimas took over a space at 112 North Main Street USA in 2020 bringing not only a new restaurant but a new food type to the community.  The renovated space included a new kitchen, bar, restaurant, and COVID friendly to-go pick up window.  The community is excited about this new business and has supported it from day one.


These and the 388 other projects, rehabilitations, and new buildings in Missouri’s Main Street districts had a huge impact during COVID.  Not only were there over $70 million in investment but 151 new businesses started with 83 businesses closing or relocating outside the Main Street district resulting in 68 net new businesses started.  These new businesses resulted in 311 net new jobs created in 2020.  This number is not the largest in the past decade but beats the 10-year average of 252 net new jobs created. 


2020 will go down in the history books as one to remember for the pandemic but here at Missouri Main Street; we will mark it as the year our Main Street communities surpassed $1 billion in investment in their districts.

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The One Billion Partnership
AUTHOR
Ben White »

In 2021, Missouri Main Street Connection celebrated $1 billion of private and public investment in Main Street districts across Missouri. This incredible investment, tracked since 2006, has transformed downtowns.


There are key differences between public and private investment. Public investment is described as dollars spent by the public sector, including city, county, and state governments while private investment comes from other non-governmental sources. Since Missouri Main Street Connection has been collecting statistics, private investment has more than doubled that of public investment in downtowns. The doubling of private investment has been possible in part due to the public sector’s emphasis in creating the foundation for development.


In 2012, Cape Girardeau showcased why having a public and private partnership is essential for sustaining revitalization. Shortly before 2012, a new casino was developed along the riverfront. To enhance the area and attract people to the river, the casino partnered with the City of Cape Girardeau and Old Town Cape on a beautification project on one of downtown’s main corridors, Broadway Street. This project included new streets, major landscaping, and new cantilever street lighting that transformed downtown in a meaningful way. This project brought much needed beautification, lighting, and walkability measures to this busy thoroughfare, a long-identified need from the community.  Here is what Liz Haynes, Executive Director of Old Town Cape, said about the project:


“The Broadway streetscape project in Cape Girardeau exemplifies how sound community planning can transform a street and neighborhood and propelled extensive private and public investment in the Broadway corridor. A result of the planning efforts has been increased pedestrian activity, investment in buildings and facades, and an enhanced, beautiful street for Old Town Cape.”

 

 


Public investment can be the catalyst in private sector downtown development efforts. The Main Street philosophy focuses on leveraging together resources to capitalize on small incremental changes that change the perspective of downtown and utilize good business practices to attract investors and partners with the potential market of a vibrant downtown. Private investment many times happens when there is a shown effort to revitalize downtown. As a result of these collaborative efforts in Cape Girardeau, eight blocks of Broadway Street received the 2021 American Planning Association Missouri Great Place Award. This award recognizes projects and places that have shown to have great economic impact on an area.


Investment in downtown comes from intentional efforts to revitalize. However, this effort takes more than just one or two people, but it truly takes the community. Public and private investment need to work hand in hand for true, comprehensive development that will be sustainable. Investment doesn’t happen on accident; it takes forethought and a plan by all who want to envision a thriving community that provides a high quality of life for its community members.

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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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