City still pursuing the dream

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The City of Cassville has submitted its application for the DREAM Initiative grant and is now awaiting word on whether or not the city has been selected as one of the state's 2010 DREAM communities.

Economic Development Director Lynette Dilbeck, who prepared the city's application, said this year's submission is much improved with the addition of a completed master plan and an infrastructure needs study and the creation of a formal Downtown Cassville Partnership.

The master plan, which provides Cassville with a blueprint for future growth and development, was completed last year by BWR with strong support from an active Project Advisory Committee and input from the community.

The Downtown Cassville Partnership (DCP) was incorporated recently and its purpose is to focus on the revitalization of the downtown core area as defined in the master plan. The target area encompasses 24 blocks that surround the historic downtown square.

"We know there are a lot of areas in Cassville that need attention and help but this (the downtown core area) is the start," said Dilbeck. "We have to start somewhere. Healthy cities have a healthy downtown core area."

Carolyn Bishop will serve as president of the DCP with Mark Smith as vice president, Bob Allen as secretary and Mike McCracken as treasurer. The DCP is a natural evolution of the Downtown Revitalization Task Force that has been meeting monthly since the master plan was completed.

The city's DREAM application, which is more than an inch thick, also includes letters of support from the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Cassville Industrial Development Corporation, the Barry County Commission and the Cassville Rotary Club.

In the application, 19 pages are devoted to describing the significance and history of Cassville's downtown square and business district and the city's desire to see its downtown core flourish.

Some of the square's special features that are highlighted in the application to prove that Cassville's historic downtown area is unique included:

* Cassville's designation as the county seat and the historic Barry County Courthouse, which will be 100 years old in 2013.

* The fact that Main Street is a state highway that travels through the downtown core, and five state highways converge to one point along the downtown corridor.

* Within the 24-block downtown core, 11 buildings still stand that were build in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

* For 60 years, the C & E Railroad traveled 4.8 miles between Cassville and Exeter, making it the shortest railroad line in the country.

In the application, Dilbeck also noted the downtown square is heavily used by the public throughout the year for special celebrations and community gatherings. The square is the site of the fall chili cookoff, the spring car show, the Christmas parade and the Friday Squared event during the summer months.

In describing Cassville's goal for pursuing the DREAM funding, the application reads, "The Cassville community's vision is for a revitalized downtown that is a people place, a mixed use, people-friendly area with entertainment, retail, restaurants and housing. This vision includes the desire to be safe and up-to-date while still maintaining the courthouse square and core city's historical integrity and personality."

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, there were 10 cities selected each year as DREAM communities. In 2009, the number of DREAM-designated cities dropped to five. Dilbeck said she has not been told how many cities will receive the grant in 2010. When the city will hear back about its application is also somewhat of an unknown.

"We really don't know when the grants will be announced," said Dilbeck. "Last year they weren't announced until November, so probably we'll find out sometime between now and Christmas. Hopefully, sooner than later."

If Cassville is designated as a DREAM community, the city council has committed to providing a 20 percent match for up to $250,000 over a three-year period, which equates to an expenditure of $12,000 to $17,000 for three years depending on the grant amount awarded to the city.

The grant provides funding for training, planning and supervision services for the city's downtown revitalization efforts.

"I think we have a really strong application. BWR said we had a good application last year before we had the master plan in there and the Downtown Cassville Partnership officially incorporated," said Dilbeck. "And if we don't get it this year, we'll keep applying. You have to keep raising your hand and letting people know you're here and want to get your piece of the pie."

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