Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) launched St. Louis Main Streets as a pilot program in late 2019 and accepted the first district in February of 2020, before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dutchtown was the first district, followed by Laclede’s Landing in August of 2020, and Delmar in June of 2021. Each attended a workshop prior to applying for the pilot program and were selected through a competitive application process.
Each district reflects the unique qualities of its history, layout, and residents making them very different – Dutchtown is more of a neighborhood commercial district with a large amount of diversity from various backgrounds. Laclede’s Landing is where St. Louis began and the district only encompasses a few blocks with about 50 residents. Delmar is a linear district that is very automobile-centric with Delmar Boulevard and its long history of dividing the district, and even the city, to the north and south.
By the beginning of 2022, each district had formed their non-profit Main Street program with a board of directors and Main Street committees. Through this process, MMSC has helped them assess their district with the various stakeholder groups, gathered information from the residents, provided training on Main Street principles, and recommended Transformation Strategies (priorities) for each district.
Dutchtown Main Streets has adopted two Transformation Strategies: serving the neighborhood and entrepreneurship development. Their district has a lot of families and they want activities, businesses, and services for the young and old. With the Neighborhood Innovation Center in the heart of the district, the entrepreneurship strategy made sense to help support those already in the district as well as to help grow small business owners within the district to fill the commercial vacancies and increase building ownership.
Laclede’s Landing Main Street is considering the strategies of riverfront activation and neighborhood goods and services. Building owners and developers have been working on upper floor housing for a few years because the district wants to be a neighborhood, not just a place to work or visit. To support this housing initiative, the strategy of neighborhood goods and services will cater to those new residents with places to eat, buy groceries, relax in the evening, or stroll with their dogs. The riverfront activation is a strategy to leverage the beautiful and under-utilized Mississippi River area. The Main Street group wants to add event space, both indoors and out, promote a bike rental business, add a marina, and create a river walk.
Delmar Main Street is reviewing their Transformation Strategy recommendations of people-centered places and entrepreneurship & equitable development. There are several spots along Delmar Boulevard to create people-centered pop-up shops or food truck villages to test the market for future, more permanent businesses. Delmar Main Street will now consider whether art and placemaking amenities can extend along the boulevard to bring people to the district from the adjacent neighborhoods to support the local businesses. There are already many small business owners in the district and the Main Street program will need to support those early entrepreneurs while attracting and equipping new business owners for success. These are some of the areas of work for the Delmar Main Street group.
Future work by MMSC and the St. Louis Main Streets districts will include diving into market and demographic data to help with decisions about retention and recruitment of new businesses, marketing properties for development, and supporting entrepreneurship through a partnership with Main Street America and the Kauffman Foundation. Stay tuned for future updates on these three districts.