The City of Houston and area civic leaders plan to file an application seeking to include the downtown business district into the Missouri Main Street Program, a move that if successful would bring funding to develop ideas to improve structures and open doors for promotion.
The Houston City Council last week approved funding one half of the $9,200 in seed money required for the two-year program. Businesses and organizations would contribute the other half if the application is successful. Another $23,000 would come from the statewide program. A letter of intent to file an application will be filed by Oct. 15. Applications are due Oct. 29.
Organizers of the statewide program say it includes a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy to develop a blueprint to bring downtowns back to life. The Main Street program applies a historic preservation-based, volunteer-driven economic development strategy to reuse existing building stocks and amenities.
Four distinct areas are included:
Organization: Groups and individuals typically involved in Main Street programs include business people, merchants, property owners, local government, financial institutions, industry, clergy, schools, utilities, residents and civic groups.
Promotion: Main Street programs market the district and community through a series of aggressive, targeted activities such as special events and festivals, which highlight the local culture, art, music, dance and traditions that give each community its unique identity.
Design: The physical appearance of a commercial district sets it apart from any other. A physically attractive district appeals to shoppers, residents, visitors and potential investors. The Main Street design philosophy is based on historic preservation ethic and strives to improve the appearance of all physical things in the Main Street program area, including buildings, signs, public art and window displays. Design includes streets, sidewalks, parks and other public infrastructure.
Economic Restructuring: The Main Street program is based on the success of existing businesses and strive to make them better while recruiting new investors to the district who will complement the current business mix.
Ten communities will be selected in the state. Much of the initial requirements to file an application have already been completed by a downtown revitalization group, Downtown Houston Inc., over the years as it acquired grants to build new sidewalks, erect new lighting, develop a downtown plaza and open a visitors center.
If successful, the Missouri Main Street program will offer several services to Houston. Including:
–A town hall meeting to receive the public’s vision for the downtown, learn about the grant services and hear residents’ ideas for revitalization.
–Organization visits with the leadership of a local board that would be comprised of a cross-section of the community.
–Regional board training to learn concepts and learn how to apply them.
–Consultation by phone from the Missouri Main Street Connection in Branson.
–Training and reference materials.
–A local director would work a minimum of 25 hours a week.
Elaine Campbell, development director for the City of Houston and Downtown Houston Inc., recently attended a statewide conference to gain more information about the program. Successful applicants will be notified by Nov. 30.