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Attendees of this year’s conference know just how powerful THEY and each individual in Missouri’s Main Street communities are when it comes to making a positive community impact. Representatives from communities of all sizes across Missouri attended the 2023 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in St. Louis where they discovered the power of People-Centered Revitalization. See what a fantastic time attendees had while learning about the Main Street Approach™, which is the framework people can use to empower transformation and successful change in a downtown district’s physical, social, economic, and civic components.



This year we started the conference even bigger than ever. Wednesday, July 26th was packed with things to do for early arrivers before the kick-off evening event and opening assembly the next day. While local program directors and their support staff took part in their monthly directors meeting and semiannual support staff meeting, other attendees embarked on one of two different concurrent educational tours. The “Makers and Shaker in Delmar Main Street District” took attendees on an exploration of Delmar Boulevard, within the Delmar Main Street district, where there is a vibrant mix of makers as well as collaborative spaces, like Maxine Clark’s Delmar Divine, that houses dozens of non-profits together to forge partnerships to move St. Louis forward.



The “Food Entrepreneurs are Shaking Up the Food Industry” tour took attendees on a munching tour to both Dutchtown Main Streets and the Soulard Farmers Market in the Soulard Historic District where they learned about each districts food entrepreneur ecosystems while enjoying select offerings from current residents of the spaces.




There were two special sessions attendees could attend on Wednesday. The first being the Deep Dive with guest speakers from the Missouri Department of Economic Development Community Block Grant (CDBG) and Iowa Main Street shared about the new Downtown Revitalization fund through MO DED’s CDBG and how Iowa’s Main Streets have utilized their own CDBG funds since Missouri modeled this new opportunity after Iowa’ s program.




The second special session was an invite only session sponsored by St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC). During this session attendees got to hear from each of the three St. Louis Main Streets programs that MMSC has worked with over the past few years and the success they have had in organizing together to make an impact on their communities. If you want to learn more about the success of the St. Louis Main Streets programs Dutchtown Main Streets, Laclede’s Landing, and Delmar Main Street, check out this article (Sharing Successes from the Three Districts in the Pilot St. Louis Main Streets Program).




As always, the Evening Opening Reception is a fun kick-off party and 2023 was no different. On top of being in a cool location, Ballpark Village’s Crown Room, attendees were getting to know other attendees at the event they may not have known before by playing bingo. Some of the items on their bingo cards included: has completed Route 66, has visited Disneyland Paris, has public art in their downtown, has attended over 5 MMSC conference, and many more. After getting their competitive spirit fix, you could see groups of people across the venue eating appetizers and networking together.




The conference officially started on Thursday, July 27th with the opening assembly which was crafted by our staff to embody our theme of “People-Centered Revitalization”. During our Welcome and Opening Assembly several Main Street programs highlighted the success they have had working together with their community and volunteers. Cape Girardeau, Jackson, Albany, and the St. Louis Main Streets districts Delmar, Dutchtown, and Laclede’s Landing presented how it was the people of their community who were the catalysts to boost the economy while also putting community vision in action. At the end of the assembly, Maxine Clark held a special heart ceremony to recognize the Main Street Directors who were present at the conference.




Following the Welcome and Opening Assembly attendees were able to start learning from a multitude of other speakers about various topics. This year our staff selected the tracts of Physical, Social, Economic, Civic, Historic Preservation, Foundational, and Urban for the offered sessions.

Some of the attendees were clear about which sessions were their favorites with the reviews we have received so far. The “Main Streets Role in Addressing Social and Economic Challenges” was one session that stood out as we heard all the little nuggets people were able to take away from the speaker including: the 13 touchpoints for trust, the Main Street organization’s ability to have influence over developers, nuanced views on equity, and adapting the Main Street Approach™ to address the realities and challenges of our community.




Additionally, high remarks were given to “Microenterprise Financing for Downtown Development”, “Bitesize Placemaking”, “Successful Event Planning and then Measuring their Impact”, and “Beg, Borrow, and Steal”. People took away so much from these sessions with our favorites being “be proud of your existing downtown and be proud as it grows even better.”




Once again, the ShowMe Bash & Pitch Party were a blast. Attendees brought the excitement of the conference to Armory STL 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. Historic Downtown Liberty, Inc. walked away as the winner with $10,000 for their 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.




Missouri Main Street Connection always ends conference with an elegant finale. Following the sessions and Closing Assembly on Friday, July 28th, the Evening of Excellence Awards Ceremony & Dinner was held at the Archview Ballroom at Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. This is always a special evening at our conference where MMSC presents awards to communities, businesses, Main Street programs, and individuals to commemorate and honor their commitment to their district as well as the achievements of Main Street revitalization. Once more there was something extra special about some of the award recipients.



Check out the Press Release section on our website to see all the awards MMSC awarded during the Evening of Excellence Awards Ceremony. One presentation was a surprise to everyone in attendance. Diane Hannah, MMSC’s Special Programs Coordinator, received gifts from MMSC’s staff and board members for her years of service to MMSC and Missouri’s Main Streets for her retirement.




As communities departed the conference, they took with them the knowledge and connections they gained to their communities to share with others. Kristine Molloy from My Hometown Carrollton commented to our staff after conference, “I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed my first Main Street Conference! It was amazing and very well organized. I am looking forward to getting a group from My Hometown Carrollton to attend next summer.”



As we take all the feedback provided by the session surveys and overall conference survey, we continue to make our conference better each year for each attendee. MMSC is excited to see you in Kansas City in 2024!

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Volunteers are the lifeblood of Main Street. From the board of directors to committees to event volunteers, each community member that volunteers in Main Street is a rockstar! Not only are they coming together to revitalize their downtown, reinvigorate their community, and cultivate a place to live, work, and play, they are making an economic impact! Volunteers make a significant economic impact in their community through the donation of their time and skill. The Independent Sector values volunteer time in Missouri at $31.80 per hour (as of June 2023). The ‘I Spy… Great Work’ nominees are entered into the running for Volunteer of the Year award at the 2023 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference.

Ashland Betterment Coalition in Ashland, MO has nominated Debbie Mudd for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Ashland was submitted by Brittney Harty on their board:

“Debbie has been an integral part of Ashland Betterment Coalition! She is one of our ex-officio board members who has built vital relationships with our local businesses. The relationships she has begun building have helped our group’s growth significantly. Debbie takes time out of her weeks to interview local business owners and highlights them on our social media pages, which gives them something in return. In six months, our social media pages have grown with Facebook now having 500 followers and reaching 30.2k people and our Instagram now having 223 followers. Our pages are now known in town as the place to go to get a complete picture of what’s happening locally on the weekends. She came up with a series dubbed ‘Round About Ashland’ playing off the roundabouts that replaced some of our busy four-way stops. From the series to the highlights, she has given our local businesses and community members a reason to pay attention to us. We truly wouldn’t be where we are today and wouldn’t be able to continue to grow without her volunteer efforts!”

Old Town Cape, Inc. in Cape Girardeau, MO has nominated Danny Essner for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Old Town Cape was submitted by Andrea Hamm on their board’s behalf:


 “For over a decade, Danny has been involved in making a difference in Cape Girardeau. This is true for many community events in Cape Girardeau and especially true for Old Town Cape’s Cape Riverfront Market. In early 2022, our staff began the long, arduous process of adding a new storage shed to the Cape Riverfront Market parking lot. There were hurdles and struggles that stalled progress such as the city permitting process, finding a reliable manufacturing company to make the shed, and working with a local engineer on the structural drawings all of which Danny Essner stepped in and volunteered to see the project to completion nearly a year later.

At each step, Danny took ownership, made the connections, got approval, and provided continued maintenance. The shed was installed in the front of the market lot in early 2023 utilizing the additional volunteers Danny recruited and tools that he owns for the tough installation process. In fact, three different saw blades broke while cutting into the asphalt to set the anchors. Having the shed at the front of the market lot makes event set up and tear down much more convenient for Old Town Cape staff and volunteers who no longer have to haul everything across the lot and back each Saturday morning.

Danny wanted to add more flair to the shed so that it looked like a cute English cottage to welcome everyone to the Cape Riverfront Market and used money from his own pocket to purchase and install hundreds of dollars worth of decorative windows, window boxes, planters, plants, and gutters to beautify the shed.

Danny is already known as a hardworking and reliable volunteer, but he went above and beyond with the Cape Riverfront Market shed project. He singlehandedly took on the shed project from design to installation, donating countless hours. Because of Danny Essner’s perseverance and altruism, the Cape Riverfront Market has significantly been enhanced.”


Pictured Above: Danny Essner, Old Town Cape Staff, and Old Town Cape volunteers. Photo provided by Old Town Cape.


Chillicothe Main Street in Chillicothe, MO has nominated Chuck Erke for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Chillicothe Main Street was submitted by Tomie Walker on their board’s behalf:


“Chuck is no stranger to Main Street Chillicothe with volunteering at nearly every Main Street event pouring wine, cleaning up, hanging ornaments, and entering data. His involvement with Main Street Chillicothe can not be understated as he held the Organization Committee together during the Covid pandemic; serves as our Organization Chair; has been asked to join the Board of Directors; has walked through most of our downtown noting business and address changes for our directory listing; and recently attended his first Main Street Now national conference in Boston—I could not think of a better volunteer to soak up the experience and ask all the questions. He is an all-around great guy that we are so fortunate to have on our team as he happily gets things done in Chillicothe for Main Street and various other organizations that compete for his time. Fortunately, he has recently retired from his day job, so there is more of him to go around. He is active in the Chamber of Commerce with innovative ideas for small business incubation, can wrap several trees with a thousand lights in Simpson Park from a man lift for the holiday Festival of Lights, serves on the annual Chautauqua in the Park committee, and is always willing to lend a helping hand wherever needed. He has a true volunteer spirit and is the downtown champion that you wish you could clone.”


Pictured Above: Chuck Erke, Main Street Chillicothe staff, and Main Street Chillicothe volunteers. Photo provided by Main Street Chillicothe.


Downtown Excelsior Partnership in Excelsior Springs, MO has nominated Carol Baxter for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Downtown Excelsior Partnership was submitted by Melinda Mehaffy on their board:


“Carol has been a long-term supporter, cheerleader, and volunteer for our downtown. During the summer months, you can find her out as early as 5:00 am watering flowers in our parks and our streetscape, she attends and volunteers at all of the Downtown Excelsior Partnership events. Carol embodies "giving of her time, talents and treasures" and is an important volunteer in our downtown and in our community. She speaks out about the value of downtown and is always pushing forward all the good our downtown has done.”


Pictured Above: Carol Baxter and Lyndsey Baxter of Downtown Excelsior Partnership. Photo provided by Downtown Excelsior Partnership.


Fayette Main Street in Fayette, MO has nominated Frank Flaspohler for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Fayette Main Street was submitted by Cara Owings on their board’s behalf:


“Frank helped create the Fayette Festival of Lights for Fayette Main Street, a wonderful new attraction added to our downtown area for the holidays, and spent many, many hours leading the efforts to install 10,000+ Christmas lights and the software program to create a light show on the courthouse building. The Fayette Festival of Lights was a light show synchronized to music that ran every night for 2-3 hours in December. Frank's vision, leadership, and volunteer hours contributed to the success of the event. The lights are a tremendous new attraction for our downtown, which drew more than three thousand people to the kickoff celebration on December 3rd; hundreds more from neighboring towns around Mid-Missouri throughout the month; and there was great media coverage with radio personalities present. The light show was talked about for weeks with many saying the light show and activities around the square were like stepping into a Hallmark movie and people cannot wait until the light show again in 2023. Without Frank this wouldn't have been successful.”


Pictured Above: Frank Flaspohler. Photo provided by Fayette Main Street.


Glasgow Main Street in Glasgow, MO has nominated Kimberly Reckner for ‘I Spy… Great Work’. The nomination from Glasgow Main Street was submitted by Nikki Gouge on their board:


“Kimberly has been a great addition to Glasgow Main Street. The list of her contributions to our community is astonishing, from building our website and driving tour to streamlining our event ticket sales, grant writing, and providing legal advice. She is constantly doing research on our town and finding new ways to promote it. She is an asset to our organization and to our community.”


 Pictured Above: Kimberly Reckner. Photo provided by Glasgow Main Street.


These nominees are not the only people volunteering in Missouri as there was a total of 9,712 volunteer hours reported in 2023 equating to $308,841.60, a huge community investment in downtowns across the state!


Missouri Main Street Connection recognizes the time it takes and sacrifices made of volunteer hours at a nonprofit and alongside our local Main Street programs and thank everyone who has volunteered with Main Street. Though I Spy Great Work is currently closed, if you see individuals in your community that are completing great work, contact your local Main Street program and recommend them to be highlighted by the local Main Street program or Missouri Main Street Connection in the future. 

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In 2023, Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference is calling St. Louis home. The city of St. Louis is at the core of St. Louis’s sprawling metropolitan county that stretches out to include dozens of municipalities and cities like Kirkwood, University City, Ferguson, and Sappington. This city has a complex history just like many places across the state and nation, but its complex past is not holding back people from pushing forward for change and accomplishing great things. This is part of the inspiration behind this year’s theme, “People-Centered Revitalization.”

There are three St. Louis historic commercial district currently participating in the St. Louis Main Streets program piloted by Missouri Main Street Connection over the past few years. Each of these unique districts has their own challenges, but also their own strengthens and opportunities. When you come to St. Louis to learn from our keynote speakers and other speakers, don’t miss the opportunity to enrich what you are learning in the session rooms with some self-guided excursions into St. Louis.




Pictured Above: Dutchtown Main Streets.

The historic commercial center of Dutchtown originates where Meramec Street crosses Virginia Avenue. Anchored to the east by the towering spires of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church and to the west by the Bavarian-styled Feasting Fox (under renovation and reopening next year), Downtown Dutchtown’s small-scale, mixed-use historic architecture creates an environment that balances urban density alongside a welcoming neighborhood atmosphere. With the help of partnerships, Dutchtown Main Streets has reactivated the largest park in their neighborhood, the Marquette Park, and installed new murals on Meramec Street. Dutchtown Main Streets and the Dutchtown neighborhood warmly welcome you to visit “a neighborhood that bears the weight of our city’s past and stands tall in the truth of who we are today. We are full of people who have experienced growth, contraction, and growth again. We are 
Dutchtown Proud.”



Picture Above: Dutchtown Main Streets 


Today, Downtown Dutchtown is home to many places you need to visit while in St. Louis to shop, eat, and learn about niche businesses, concept spaces, and more including: several eclectic boutiques and resale shops, creative services, a halal grocer, and a couple of unique concept spaces: The Wink and Urban Eats. The Wink is a retail incubator allowing small, local makers and sellers to try their hand at the brick-and-mortar business. Urban Eats provides a similar ecosystem for aspiring restauranteurs, with both shared kitchen space and vendor spaces encircling a shared dining area. 



Pictured Above: Urban Eats in Dutchtown. 

Additionally, you can stop grab a bite to eat at Tacos La Jefa that brought the birria craze, All Rolled Up who makes unique egg roll creations in both sweet and savory forms, Beignet All Day with a St. Louis twist to the popular New Orleans Treat, Original Crusoe’s who has been serving up classic comfort food to the neighborhood for over 40 years, and Marie’s Snack Shack with expertly grilled St. Louis-style barbecue.  There’s a lot to love about Dutchtown, with its rich history and promising future. MMSC hopes you explore this neighborhood, meet the neighbors, and learn what makes them “Dutchtown Proud!”


Laclede’s Landing



Pictured Above: Laclede's Landing 

This tiny neighborhood is tucked between two bridges, a highway, and a river, but the residents, business owners, and other stakeholders are not letting their challenges overshadow their amazing opportunities: being the only Saint Louis neighborhood and commercial district on the Mississippi River, having beautiful building stock, and the St. Louis Gateway Arch National Park on the other side of Eads Bridge. The Laclede’s Landing Main Street Board of Directors invites you to plan on coming to Laclede’s Landing for an excursion during your time in St. Louis for Missouri’s Premier Downtown Conference. Download this Tour Guide created by Laclede’s Landing Main Street and the Missouri Historical Society. This guide will take you to points of interest in the district, provide historical insight to the significance of the architecture and the district’s role in Missouri’s history, and areas to dine.



Additionally, there is a “Lunch on the Landing” happening at the Katherine Ward Burg Garden every Friday from 11:30am to 1:30pm with food trucks, live music, and community (Download the invite card here). Laclede’s Landing is a short and safe walk—under one mile—from our conference hotel, the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark.  You can walk north across Market Street to Kiener Plaza Park then west past the old courthouse crossing over the pedestrian land bridge and greenspace to access and walk through the Arch grounds.





Pictured Above: Delmar Main Street 

This nine mile, East-West boulevard and commercial corridor with a complex past stretches through the city from Vandeventer to N Price Rd. Over the past few years, Delmar Boulevard is coming full circle on the unity behind how the street originally got its name, which according to records found in the History of St. Louis Neighborhoods was the result of two landowners, one from Delaware and one from Maryland, living on opposite sides of the road who combined their estate names (Norbury L. Wayman, 1980, Digitally accessed from www.stlouis-mo.gov). Delmar Main Street is working through their second year as champions to “identify and remedy causes of racial and economic inequality, reduce gentrification, and create opportunities for people of color and women” as community members from both sides of Delmar Boulevard are coming together to “Reimagine Delmar” as united through Delmar Main Street.


Pictured Above: Delmar Main Street 

The Delmar Main Street Board of Directors invites you to come see ‘Delmar UNITED’ while grabbing a bite to eat, shop local businesses, and see the changes that has happened. Two local restaurants you will want to visit are Brew Tulum Specialty Coffee Experience that serves a wide variety of handcrafted Mexican meals, specialty coffee, & desserts and Deli Divine that serves Jewish American food as a Jewish Deli and a full market.


Pictured Above: Deli Divine in Delmar.

These three districts have utilized the Main Street Approach™ over the past few years to do amazing things, but they are not the only places where there are people doing great work. We can also learn from districts like Kirkwood and North Grand who are examples of both thriving and developing districts in St. Louis.

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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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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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Missouri Main Street Connection is hosting the 2023 Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference in St. Louis. This year the atmosphere MMSC welcomes you into is focused on People-Centered Revitalization which is community vision in action. From the educational sessions to the tours and events, attendees can expect to see how they themselves, from communities of all sizes are the catalyst to create partnerships, build community, foster entrepreneurs, and boost the local economy while preserving and promoting the culture of their district and downtown. It is the people who are the power behind Main Street. By utilizing action plans and the Main Street framework people transform their community’s vision into implementation that addresses current and future needs.


At the conference, you will see familiar terms as MMSC leans into the foundation of the Main Street Approach™. Sessions will explore the guiding principles of each of the four points which are respectively rooted in the economic, civic, physical, and social characteristics of each Main Street district. The Main Street Approach sets the model for local Main Street programs to utilize the four points in committees that accelerate change through empowering community stakeholders to work collaboratively for a collective impact on the community.


Pictured Above: Downtown Lee’s Summit Board

You will find that it is impossible for Main Street to work on its own, for it is all about partnerships. There are countless stakeholders and relationships that are vital to the sustainability of a Main Street program and success of its initiatives. During the conversations you have at the conference lean into how to prioritize people and relationships. Who needs to be engaged you may ask? We say everyone should be engaged whether they come to your table and provide input, or the Main Street programs staff, board, or committee goes to their table. Though there is only 24-hours in a day, there are ways to build connections with stakeholders first through trust and then a shared problem or common goal.


Pictured Above: Cape Girardeau

The goal of Main Street isn’t to have a thriving downtown in and of itself, but to nurture the revitalization and creation of an equitable, sustainable, healthy, resilient, and vibrant community whose heart and core is a Main Street that provides spaces to shop, work, live, and play. As we have learned in recent years, people make the place. It is all about a balance between a communities rich, unique, and often complex history which informs its present and people. Main Street programs can leverage their approach and expertise to transform and build a community which listens to residents’ voices in implementing ideas.


Pictured Above: Small Business in Independence, MO.

MMSC invites attendees to embrace the power that people hold as drivers of their respective local economy in roles that range from small business owners, entrepreneurs, or generational business owners to patrons, volunteers, visitors, or residents. Everyone plays a role in today’s society to impact their local community.

Missouri Main Street Connection is excited about how a People-Centered Revitalization mindset can inform and impact local Main Street program’s implementation of the Main Street Approach™. We hope you will join us to learn from fantastic speakers and our entire Main Street network in St. Louis.

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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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This year at Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference’s ShowMe Bash & Pitch Party, Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) will be awarding the Creative Space Activation Grant to one local Main Street organization. As Missouri communities continue to evolve in response to the changing circumstance of the COVID-19 pandemic, MMSC sees a continued need to activate outdoor spaces through placemaking projects in historic districts as a way to support small businesses, local citizens, and community vibrancy for all ages.

The Missouri Main Street Connection Creative Space Activation Grant has been designed to support one local Main Street organization in activating their historic district’s public spaces to build community connections and create activity that encourages customers to support local small businesses. Creative solutions to promote places and fill them strategically with opportunities for citizens to enjoy their community, enhance civic and community pride, and create a place for visitors to linger and to enjoy local businesses and restaurants at their leisure has a huge impact on your community’s economic vitality as well as sense of place. From small to big, every project matters when it comes to creating a vibrant community for all ages.

Applications are being accepted for this grant opportunity until July 8, 2022. If you are a Missouri Main Street program that has an agreement with MMSC, and are in good standing, you are eligible to apply. Five communities will be selected as finalists to attend the Pitch Party where they will have time to present their project to the live audience and a panel of judges. Each of the five finalists will receive a box of placemaking materials that may include lawn games, paint/chalk, signs, lights, placemaking educational materials, etc., but only one will walk away with the grant of $10,000 to implement their project!

If you are eligible to apply and interested in getting the application email info@momainstreet.org

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This year’s Missouri’s Premier Downtown Revitalization Conference is taking place in Kansas City, Missouri! At conference you will find new ideas for making places meaningful and working with your community to become a place that everyone can call home as well as attend amazing events to both inspire you and recognize communities across Missouri for the revitalization they have accomplished.


Tour of Downtown Kansas City

Wednesday, August 3, 20221:00 pm to 4:00 pm

This walking tour starts in the Kansas City Marriott Downtown lobby with attendees meeting at 12:45 pm with their tickets. You will explore the great places throughout downtown Kansas City experiencing an uptick in growth.  We will take advantage of the streetcar and then walk a short distance to some of the impressive projects we will see. All of the projects will be examples of adaptive re-use projects that have created both commercial and residential space rejuvenating the area. There are a number of Historic Tax Credit projects that we will see—and we may even get a sweet treat on the way! Be sure to wear comfortable shoes!

Tickets available, until sold out, online ($20) until July 25 and onsite at the conference registration office.



Guided Scavenger Hunt with Prizes through Downtown Kansas City

Wednesday, August 3, 20221:00 pm to 4:00 pm;

This adventurous tour starts in Kansas City Marriott Downtown lobby with attendees meeting at 12:45 pm with their tickets. You will explore the unique sites and architecture that make downtown Kansas City one of a kind. Using the streetcar, attendees will explore historic and cultural sites while making a game of the tour to see who can find the most sites or architectural features within the time allowed. The group will stop off at several areas along the streetcar route to allow participants to explore and find clues while learning about Kansas City’s history. Prizes will be awarded in several categories and will be announced soon.

Tickets available, until sold out, online ($20) until July 25 and onsite at the conference registration office.

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