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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

Group meets to help revitalize downtown Sikeston

Friday, March 24, 2006

(Photo)
Some 65 persons gathered Thursday evening to present their views in a town hall meeting.
SIKESTON - Ideas and suggestions flowed as residents, business owners and city and civic leaders met to form Sikeston's Main Street organization in an effort to revitalize the midtown area.

Some 65 persons gathered Thursday evening to present their views in a town hall meeting and form the basis of the organization, similar to those which have benefited other communities.

Robin Pace, president of the Sikeston Historic Midtown Development Group, was especially pleased by the turnout and the meeting.

"With the Main Street organization in Sikeston, it is going to promote the economy of the downtown area which in turn will help all of Sikeston and Miner. We are pleased this many people showed up and showed they really cared," she said.

Following an explanation about the Main Street program by Gayla Roten of Branson and Bridgett Epple of Washington, Mo., who are affiliated with the Main Street program in their own communities as well as serving as mentors for Sikeston, work began on identifying the positives to the midtown area of Sikeston. These ranged from unique businesses and parks to the area's brick streets and the community's southern hospitality.

The group was then asked to consider "the opportunities. I don't think of them as a negative but rather an opportunity to create something better," said Epple. The "opportunities" included such things as empty lots and buildings, signage, lack of evening activities and the need to draw visitors to the downtown area from other venues.

Roten and Epple offered ways their communities have sought to overcome problems. Roten noted when she began working with the Branson downtown area about 10 years ago, the vacancy rate was 46 percent, while today there are only two buildings available and the group turns down requests from businesses which they don't see as working well with their area's needs.

Epple explained how state and federal tax credits coupled with low interest loans have enabled businesses in Washington, Mo., to restore their historic look and rehabilitate older buildings.

"Much of what you will need to do is educate people on what is out there," said Epple. Roten added this also includes being educated on the political level, noting the Main Street program also works with the state and national leaders to receive funding for programs.

The meeting turned into a work session as those attending were divided into four committees - design, organization, promotion and economic restructuring - to form the basis of the local community's effort. Each committee was asked to establish a regular meeting time and a project to begin the revitalization effort.

First efforts, according to the economic restructing committee, will center on a marketing survey of area residents and existing merchants to determine the type of businesses they would like to see in the midtown area as well as inventory of what the area has to offer.

The organizational committee is going to look at expanding the board and at funding available while among the ideas set forth by the design committee included creating a list of building owners and developing plans for building facades. The promotions committee indicated they will center efforts on signage to bring visitors downtown along with creating a Web site and logo.

Those who would like more information about the Historic Midtown Development Association or would like to assist in their efforts can contact Pace at 471-1200 or the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce at 471-2498.