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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Sikeston native will lead downtown revitalization

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Amanda Pratt
SIKESTON - From her corner office overlooking New Madrid and Center streets, Amanda "Mandy" Pratt sees the job she has ahead of her. She has a perfect view from that second-floor window in city hall of downtown Sikeston.

On Jan. 29 Pratt was named the first executive director of the Historic Midtown Development Group, an organization founded in 2005 to revitalize the downtown Sikeston area.

A Sikeston native, Pratt's family roots go deep here. Not only did she grow up in Sikeston, at one time Pratt had a small business downtown. While she said she enjoyed visiting with her customers, she soon discovered the world of retail wasn't for her. Pratt went back to school earning her degree from Southeast Missouri State University where she majored in history and earned a minor in historic preservation.

"Southeast was so good for me," she said. In addition to her education it also enabled her to intern with the Cape Girardeau County Archive in Jackson. She described that work as good training for her job with HMDG.

"I love history and preservation," Pratt said. "I'm happy to see that my hometown cares but it is unfortunate a lot of historic structures are gone. We need to really get on the ball and get what we have back into shape - show some hometown pride."

One of the things Pratt enjoys watching from her office windows is the uncovering of the old brick streets. "There are some towns which are really jealous," she said about the downtown roadways, which have literally paved the way for the historic renovation efforts.

As the new executive director, Pratt had to hit the ground running. Already she has attended a Main Street training seminar in Jefferson City; her introduction to her new bosses came at the recent HMDG town hall meeting.

During the meeting, Pratt made a Powerpoint presentation on the plan conceived for revitalizing downtown Sikeston. The first phase will center around the Depot and will include improvements to the parking lot then along Front Street to Kingshighway then continue along it "as far as the money allows" to include landscaping, benches, trash receptacles, etc. Currently she is working on a Missouri Department of Transportation grant. If funded, the grant would provide historic lighting as well as sidewalk and curb improvements.

Under construction by Pratt is the group's new Web site - downtownsikeston.org. Here will be information about HMDG meetings, the program's background, contacts, members' listing and links, events and volunteer opportunities.

"I want to get as much pertinent information on the Web as I can. That is where technology is leading us to get the information out," she said.

Also ahead for the new director is getting the group's plan down on paper and the search for more grant funding for various improvement projects.

While she is pleased with the support already shown from the membership of the HMDG, Pratt is looking for more people to join. "This is not just a downtown project. It is a community project," she said.

Pratt said she has received suggestions on what type of businesses people said would bring them downtown (more restaurants, antique stores, etc.) and on ways to make the area more attractive (a fountain in Legion park, for example). Praising the board and the membership, she noted they bring a lot of different talents to HMDG.

"But we need more people to bring their interests to the table, even if they are not directly related to the downtown, they should be encouraged to help . . . to speak up. Everyone's opinion matters," she said.

Pratt cautioned that the process of turning Downtown Sikeston into a destination will take time.

"Other communities have been working on this for 10, 15, 20 years and are still struggling. But hopefully people will see our little success - they will see more people downtown, more downtown opportunities," she said. "Year by year it will be baby steps but I hope 10 years from now we will be able to look back and see all we have accomplished."

Pratt encourages those with ideas or who would like to become a part of HMDG to contact her at ampratt@downtownsikeston.org.