Adam Clark of Dalco Plumbing removes concrete as part of a water and sewer project at one of three store fronts on Main Street in Houston.

By late fall, three new venues will open in downtown Houston, the organization spearheading the projects announced late last week.

University of Missouri Texas County Extension will occupy one of the spaces in the Lone Star Plaza Annex, currently three existing storefronts that have been empty and are undergoing extensive renovations, Downtown Houston Inc. announced. The not-for-profit organization has spearheaded a number of improvements in Houston’s downtown business district over the last several years, including the Lone Star Plaza, the Houston Visitors Center and adjoining property that serves as the trailhead for a walking venue. In partnership with the City of Houston, other improvements completed include new downtown lighting and sidewalks.

MU Extension offers numerous services that complement offerings that are situated nearby, including the Houston Farmers Market, which operates on Tuesday afternoons and Friday mornings at the Lone Star Plaza, and the Houston School District, said Sarah Kenyon, program director for the county office. Extension employees who work in a number of agriculture and nutrition fields will occupy one of the spaces. Adjoining it will be space earmarked for technology, such as a computer lab.

The county’s first community kitchen will occupy a second space, which will be available on a rental basis and for classes, use by University Extension and others. Cooking equipment and refrigeration will be available at the site. The closest commercial, state-inspected ones are in Mansfield and Springfield.

It will be equipped with a walk-in cooler, six-burner commercial range, convection oven, freezer, mixer, food processor, stainless steel worktables and many other accessories.

A third venue — the Great Hall — will be available for meetings, dinners, class reunions and wedding receptions. It will be equipped with round tables and chairs. About 1,400 square foot of space has been created. During winter months, if interest surfaces, an indoor farmers market might also occupy the quarters once a week.

Funding for the projects comes from USDA Rural Development; Healthy Schools Healthy Communities, a local initiative to encourage healthy lifestyles and good nutrition; and the Neighborhood Assistance Program, which is overseen by the Missouri Department of Economic Development. The Texas County Health Department has provided technical assistance. Mayor Don Tottingham also has been involved with the planning.

Rental of the hall and commercial kitchen quarters will cover a small annual operating budget.

Also on Downtown Houston’s 2016 capital improvements list is a renovation of two Grand Avenue empty storefronts and the Melba Theatre, an empty Houston icon built in 1938 and unoccupied since the early 1980s. A planning meeting with stakeholders will soon be held. No date has been set yet.

For more information, see or contact on officer, President Brad Gentry, Vice President Kathy Richardson or Secretary-Treasurer Vera Gladden.

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