The City of Canton, Missouri and the local Main Street program, Canton Main Street, boldly joined forces to enhance their community economically and socially. Canton is located in the northeast corner of the state on the Mississippi River with a population of 2,455 and is home to Culver-Stockton College. It is a rural community with farming as one of the main industries, which serves as a port for grain distribution using the river and railroad.
The local Main Street program began in late 2013 with a group of downtown stakeholders wanting to improve the trajectory of their downtown. Like many downtowns, Canton saw years of deferred building maintenance, absentee property owners, and increased storefront vacancies. Other issues were commercial retail space used for storage or part-time or hobby business owners with very limited store hours. The goal of the small group was to start a Main Street program and turn that situation around.
Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC), using the Affiliate Grant Program (now called the Community Empowerment Grant), partnered with city officials and district stakeholder to form a not-for-profit Main Street organization using the 40-plus year template of the National Main Street Center to form a board of directors, utilize Main Street ApproachTM committees, and implement projects and initiatives using economic development-based action plans. This partnership and implementation of the Main Street Approach™ created Canton Main Street. Canton Main Street utilized additional grants and services from MMSC to gather economic and market demographics, provide board training and support, assist in developing a list of priorities, and strengthen stakeholder relationships. All of these activities lead to the community wanting more. The leadership in downtown and throughout the city wanted to use the Main Street ApproachTM to provide a focused direction for the future of the entire community. That is where the idea of a community-wide master plan was born.
Through a partnership with the City of Canton, Canton Main Street, community stakeholders, and Missouri Main Street, the process of planning began in February of 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic began. This first meeting set the foundation for the Master Plan by meeting with various stakeholder groups for a larger community input session to gather viewpoints of the current community assets, what the community would like to see in the future, and how the community and downtown can be activated. The consultants, representing the Main Street comprehensive approach to vibrant community development brought their expertise to the input sessions but also began formulating themes or focus areas. Main Street calls these focus areas Transformation Strategies which help guide the community development activities from brainstorming to funding to implementation.
Future visits both virtually and in-person helped to refine these strategies and put more detail to the plan with the outcome being a 96-page document with visuals for potential projects, guidelines of how to implement, and recommendations on potential funding sources. The report was presented in November of 2021 to a packed house at the new City Hall building. Wayfinding signs, building renderings, new branding for downtown and the community, and business recruitment tactics were included in the plan and were featured during the presentation.
Following the adoption of the plan, MMSC checks in with the leadership of Canton on their implementation progress, helps to remove obstacles, or assists with partnerships as the community moves through the timeline of implementation as outlined in the plan.
MMSC provided 60% of the overall costs for the City of Canton Master Plan and the community contributed the remaining 40%. MMSC provided a team of professionals to lead the community vision and provided the technical resources and trainings throughout the implementation of the plan’s goals and objectives. If your Main Street community is interested in a community-wide Master Plan, please reach out to