Plans to apply for a grant to revitalize downtown Union have been put on hold until city officials can gauge the receptiveness of business owners.
Community Development Director Joseph Graves Monday night recommended to aldermen that the city wait before applying for the grant through the Missouri Main Street Program.
In April, Jeanine Rann, the state community development coordinator for Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc., presented information about the Missouri Main Street Program to a city committee.
“I would like to talk with downtown business owners to get a better feel of their thoughts,” Graves said.
He added that aldermen had a little more than a month to make a decision to apply or not.
The program gives community leaders the “tools to economically and physically” revitalize downtowns, Rann said last month.
Graves said he and Bridgette Epple, Downtown Washington Inc. executive director, walked Main Street recently to discuss the potential for revitalization.
“She had pledged her assistance as much as possible,” Graves said.
Epple is a member of the Missouri Main Street Connections board, he told aldermen.
Graves added that Union should be taking steps to attract people and businesses into downtown.
“There is no other community that has our downtown and our mix of buildings,” he said. “We’re at the level that we need to start thinking about doing something organized with our downtown.”
Mayor Mike Livengood noted that Union is the county seat and there is opportunity to bring people into the downtown area.
“We do have a draw that can get people down here,” he said.
Graves said a downtown organization would plan festivals to attract people who could spend money at local businesses.
Missouri Main Street Connection is one of the 43 state coordinating programs that operate under the authority of the National Main Street Center, which was created by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
To participate, the city would have had to apply for a 60-40 matching grant that would require $9,400 of local funds.
If Union were selected as one of 10 communities to receive the grant, Missouri Main Street Connection would provide $23,500 in services.
This year, there will be 10 grants approved during the grant cycle.
Last month, Rann said the Missouri Main Street Connection utilizes a four-point approach to assist communities to revitalize downtowns. The points are organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.
Organization includes establishing partnerships with interested parties. That would include store owners and organizations such as the Union Area Chamber of Commerce.
Generally, there is a corporation formed including a hired staff specifically dedicated to promoting downtown. There also is a board of directors.
The promotion point is focused on marketing the downtown area’s assets, and “fostering a positive image.” That could include the promotion of businesses and retail, and holding special events.
Rann called the downtown Main Street area of a community the “front porch of the community.” Events would provide safe activities for the community, and the downtown would be a place for people to gather.
The design aspect would preserve the district’s historic buildings and enhance the aesthetic qualities. Design would include elements other than buildings, but also signs, awnings and streetscape.
The final point, economic restructuring, is geared toward strengthening the downtown assets by “diversifying the economic base.”
Rann said that is economic development within the context of historic preservation.