Community casts vision for Main Street’s future

bbashioum@demo-mo.comMay 20, 2013 

About two dozen downtown business owners and community leaders recently gathered to brainstorm about future growth opportunities of Belton’s Main Street.

Missouri Main Street Community Development Coordinator Jeanine Rann facilitated a downtown visioning discussion May 9 at the Belton Memorial Station.

Art Ruiz, president of Downtown Belton Main Street Inc., said one of the purposes of the meeting was to recruit members for the organization’s volunteer board that promotes the revitalization of the city’s downtown area utilizing principles from The Missouri Main Street program.

Rann has long been an influence in the development of Warrensburg’s and Lee’s Summit downtown improvement projects.

Belton is in their second year of the Main Street revitalization project, an effort initialized by city councilmembers to improve the look, feel and business opportunities to the area.

During the meeting, Rann encouraged the attendees to build upon events the Main Street corridor is already doing well – such as cruise nights, the Belton Fall Festival, and the springtime Celebrate Vintage Wedding event.

“The goal of the evening is to get your ideas about what your vision is for Downtown Belton,” Rann said in her opening remarks.

“I want you to think big, but also about small projects that can be done in the short term. These are going to be your priorities and your road map to take your downtown to the next level.”

The value in downtown revitalization efforts, Rann said, does several things for their community, including bringing the community together, strengthening the economic base, and building on existing assets.

Rann introduced attendees to the “Main Street Four-Point Approach,” which has been adopted by approximately 3,000 communities nationwide, and include:

Organization – Establishing consensus, attracting money and people while developing partnerships that build an effective revitalization program.

Design – Preserving the district’s historic character and enhancing its physical appearance.

Economic Restructuring – Strengthening downtown’s assets by diversifying its economic base.

Promotion – Fostering a positive image and marketing the district’s unique characteristics and assets.

The approach relies on local volunteers to drive the initiative and see their priority goals become realities.

“The approach is effective in communities both large and small,” Rann said. “I can’t reinforce it have to start somewhere.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation Main Street Centers recommends a four-way cost share plan to finance revitalization projects: 30 percent from stakeholders in the district, 30 percent from stakeholders outside of the district, 30 percent from the local county or city government, and 10 percent from special events, sales or other activities.

After Rann’s initial discussion, she divided attendees into groups, where they were instructed to brainstorm various ideas for downtown improvements, promotions, and special events.

Participants spent the remainder of the two-hour meeting talking about ideas with their group members and presenting them to the other attendees.

The ideas being passed around Thursday evening ranged from offering chocolate crawls, movie and live entertainment nights, walking trails and pet festivals to free management seminars and improved communication methods among business owners downtown.

Rann then placed all of the ideas, jotted on Post-It notes, on to a wall. Participants then took several minutes at the conclusion of the event to rank their top three ideas in each category.

Ruiz said the meeting brought new enthusiasm to the board.

“Some of us have been through this exercise before but it is always good for a refresher to bring in new people and look for additional volunteers because this is a volunteer-based community organization,” he said.

Individuals looking to be involved in the revitalization efforts are encouraged to contact Ruiz at 816-331-4449.

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