Missouri Main Street Connection received funding to help Missouri communities revitalize their downtowns. Jackson was one of three communities to receive help. (The others were Maryville and Canton.)
Various community groups met with Keith Winge, community development coordinator for MMSC, and Norma Ramirez de Miess, senior program officer and director of leadership development for National Main Street Center, throughout the day on Thursday, Sept. 7.
At 6:30 p.m., Ramirez de Miess gave a presentation at the Cape County History Center on how Main Street principles and strategies can assist Uptown Jackson revitalization efforts.
“Improving the quality of life — that’s what Main Street is all about,” she began. Uptown Jackson needs to give people the feeling that “this is home.” People will want to congregate there. “Uptown is the place where the community can gather,” she continued.
There are four parts to making this happen.
The first is “organization.” Who makes this possible? Uptown works in partnership with the City and MoDOT. Business owners work together. One example was “Sip and Shop,” going on outside as this meeting was taking place inside.
The second part is “design.” Physical improvements make people want to visit Uptown. Jackson has invested in streetscapes, building façade improvements, and added a pocket park, residential space, and a roundabout.
The third part is “economic vitality.” It’s good to strength-en the diversity of businesses in Uptown. It was noted that seven new businesses opened in Uptown Jackson in the past year. In addition, the area that is considered “Uptown” was expanded to include more businesses.
One attendee noted that there are more sponsors for the Oktoberfest, which led into the fourth category, “promotion” of Uptown as a center of activity.
Looking ahead, Uptown would like to see more people volunteer their service at Uptown activities. A design committee may work with the City to get grants for additional façade development. Uptown will work to “fill vacant windows” by bringing more businesses there. And Uptown would like to work with the County as it designs its new courthouse campus; a larger parking structure would add much-needed parking space to Uptown.
Uptown businesses may strengthen their collaboration to build efficiencies (so each business doesn’t do the same thing).
As for promotion, the idea of a ladies’ night out was put forth.
Ramirez de Miess mentioned that it is important to get the community involved — including Jackson youth — so that the community has a sense of ownership. The youth make up the next generation of leaders. If they have a sense of ownership — that this is “home” — they may go off to college, but they will return and build their businesses here, she said.
“The new generation wants to stay home,” she added. “When you don’t show them where home is, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Ramirez de Miess also mentioned it’s a good idea to get a variety of people to serve on the Uptown Jackson Board of Directors. This will help avoid gaps in missing skills. The Board needs to commit to lead, act and represent.
“Everybody benefits from a successful [Uptown] district,” she said. “Everybody should be involved.”
She praised the efforts that have been made so far to improve Uptown Jackson, saying, “Be very proud of what you have accomplished.”
A written report summarizing the information gathered throughout the day and offering recommendations from Main Street will be made available to Jackson in October.