(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- On Tuesday, Sikeston leaders began work to make their dream for downtown Sikeston a reality.
Those involved with the DREAM initiative to revitalize downtown Sikeston met for the day with an initial assessment team to outline what they've done, what they hope to do, and where assistance is needed.
"We need to be able to put together a complete plan," said Jonathan Maloyed, president of the Historic Midtown Development Group. "Since we were given that distinction, they will provide to us technical assistance."
Mayor Mike Marshall said the meeting would "help take what we've done so far to the next level."
The team will assess all of the 10 communities that were designated as DREAM cities in late August.
"It's basically the same format," said Brenda Horstman, a finance manager for the Department of Economic Development. "We look and see what the opportunities are and where we can help out."
The initiative is a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization. It includes aid in navigating through state assistance programs, as well as job creation and community betterment. The towns hold the designation for three years.
Several members of HMDG, as well as city leaders, spoke to the assessment team during the morning meetings.
Marcia Witt, chair of the design committee, outlined some hopes for what to do with landscaping and other things downtown. She mentioned that local businesses have offered to help, including solicit donations.
"We've got the money but we need help with the planning," Witt said.
That's not common, Horstman later remarked. "Usually, we hear 'we don't have the money," she said.
Also discussed was the Missouri Department of Transportation Enhancement grant recently approved. It is to include new sidewalks, benches, trash receptacles, landscaping and decorative lighting similar to what someone may have been seen in Sikeston 60 years ago.
"We want to make sure the things we do with that are congruent with everything (the DREAM Initiative) does," Maloyed said.
David Friedman, chair of HMDG's promotions committee, discussed the events that have been held over the past year. "And next year, we plan to add a couple more," he said.
From a personal perspective, he told assessment team members of the transition the downtown area has gone through since he arrived on the scene almost 41 years ago.
"Downtown has changed dramatically," Friedman said.
He wants to see the downtown area thriving again with different types of retail, although he knows it will never have large department stores again.
Mandy Pratt, executive director of the Historic Midtown Development Group, shared with the team her efforts in communication -- how she's been keeping HMDG members and members of the general public who are interested in the efforts informed.
Pratt shared a copy of the monthly newsletters and columns, as well as a look at the Web site, www.downtownsikeston.org.
She noted that there has been a big increase in site visitors recently. "I think a lot of it is because of DREAM and the upcoming MoDOT grant," Pratt said.
Horstman lauded the collaboration between interested groups. "Having brought several organizations together is a great feat in itself," she said.
Following the presentations, the group went on a walking tour of downtown Sikeston, to show the assessment team "a flavor of what we have and some of the historical significance," Maloyed said.
The group looked at the mural at U.S. Bank; heard the story of the columns on Kingshighway, remnants of the Methodist Church that burnt in 1968; saw the library, Depot and other notable properties in the area; and took a look at the park; among other stops.
The group then took the afternoon to work on the next step -- making a plan for what to do.
"We're going to put together a draft of things they see as issues and prioritize what we want to do," Maloyed said. "I think we'll develop a good game plan together."
But with all the work committee members have already done to reshape downtown Sikeston, they're already off to a good start. "I think they're further along here than in some of the other communities," Horstman said.
Pratt, who observed the work of committee members while she was training for her position earlier this year, is looking forward to what will come once plans start being implemented.
"I've seen what they've done with the communities that were chosen last year," she said. "I'm confident they can help us get things rolling."