Union city officials will consider applying for a grant that could give historic downtown Union a boost.
During the city’s personnel, finance and public works committee meeting Monday, aldermen agreed to look into the Missouri Main Street Program, a grant intended to assist communities with downtown revitalization.
Jeanine Rann, the state community development coordinator for Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc., presented information about the Missouri Main Street Program to the committee.
She said the program gives community leaders the “tools to economically and physically” revitalize downtowns.
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 must apply for a 60-40 matching grant that would require $9,400 of local funds.
If Union is selected as one of 10 communities to receive the grant, Missouri Main Street Connection would provide $23,500 in services.
“That includes us holding your hand, but also empowering you,” said Rann.
A tentative time line includes a letter of intent submitted by May 1, followed by a full application submitted about 30 days later.
“We will work with you to get you to this point of your desire,” added Rann.
There will be 10 grants approved during this grant cycle.
Aldermen Dustin Bailey asked if Union has qualities that make it a good candidate to receive the grant, including Main Street enhancement work and as the county seat.
“All of those employees you have down here is an asset,” said Rann.
She noted that there also are several historic buildings.
“You have an amazing amount of positives in the community,” she said.
A downfall would be the number of vacant downtown storefronts.
Bailey said the city’s master plan included downtown revitalization as a “cornerstone.”
He added that the city could use funds that here been earmarked for a downtown facade program. The program was discontinued due to lack of participation.
This year, those funds will be used to purchase trees for downtown street corners.
The committee will continue to discuss the possibility of applying for the grant.
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.