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Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

Support is needed for revitalizing downtown

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

(Photo)
Bridgette Epple, left, and Gayla Roden, offer advice on how to establish a Main Street downtown revitalization program.
SIKESTON -- Community support will be the key to launching a successful Main Street program in Sikeston.

Historic Midtown Development Group board members, city and Chamber of Commerce officials, and other interested community members gathered at the Main Gate Condominiums' meeting room Monday evening to receive guidance from Main Street Connection officials on how to organize efforts toward revitalizing Sikeston's downtown.

Bridgette Epple, director of Missouri's Main Street Connection, and Gayla Roten, president of the Missouri Main Street Association, are also the executive directors for the Main Street programs in Washington, Mo., and Branson, respectively.

"Both are nationally recognized as outstanding Main Street programs," said Linda Lowes, Sikeston's director of governmental services.

"We are Main Street, we are passionate about it, and it works," Roten said.

The nearest example of a Main Street program in action is Cape Girardeau's "Old Town Cape," according to Missy Marshall, executive director for the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce. "Their director has been very helpful in getting us involved in the Main Street program."

The first step for Sikeston should be holding a town hall meeting to gather the community's input on focusing revitalization efforts, according to Roten.

"It is community driven," she said. "Where do you want your community to go?"

"Brainstorm what you want," Epple said.

"Then find what funding goes with what you want to implement," said Roten.

The town hall meeting would also be an opportunity to gather a group of volunteers and form committees. "If they're only going to go to one meeting, make this that one meeting," Epple said.

Service organizations should also be invited, she added.

Epple and Roten also discussed their organization's time-tested and trademarked "Four Point Approach" of economic restructuring, design, promotion and organization.

Advice on applying for Neighborhood Assistance Program funding was also offered. With a population over 16,000 Sikeston, is eligible to award 50 percent tax credits through the NAP.

Projects identified as being for downtown revitalization have a much higher chance of being approved than those marked as capitol improvements, according to Epple.

"What we're using NAP money for is design work," Roten offered as an example. "We had 14 projects, seven are going right now."

"You can bring in a retail coach," Epple suggested as another likely NAP project.

Jim Bucher of Sikeston's Historic Midtown Development Group asked if they had any old NAP grant applications that Sikeston could use to guide future NAP application efforts.

Epple and Roten said they would be happy to pass those along. "Other communities will, too," Epple said. They also offered to review Sikeston's last NAP application to advise where improvements could be made.

"The more you can put in your application that you are embracing the Main Street philosophy, the better," Roten advised. "The points rise for you ... it definitely helps your chances."

Applications for NAP funding have their best chance when submitted by March 15, she said.

"New project money shows up around April the first," Roten said. "They start allocating funds about the end of April."

"You have to play the state game, know their cycles," Epple added.

Staff for a Main Street program was also discussed.

"For growth, you need to hire a director," Roten said. "The minute you hire a director, it starts changing. Also, to be a nationally-recognized Main Street community, you have to have a full-time staffer."

Among the many things Sikeston has going for it is the city's backing, the mentors advised.

"The city is committed to helping revitalize downtown," confirmed Mayor Mike Marshall. "The city very much supports this."

Before adjourning, the Historic Midtown Development Group's board members unanimously approved joining the national Main Street organization.

For more information on the Main Street program contact Lowes at 471-2512 or the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce at 471-2498.