Cassville DREAM Initiative master plan moves forward

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

City could have downtown strategic plan in first half of 2015

Cassville has progressed with the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri Initiative to improve the city's infrastructure, while still preserving the historical architecture.

In 2010, the state chose Cassville, Jackson, Monett, Ozark and Waynesville to be the final DREAM communities.

Carolyn Bishop, president of the Cassville Main Street Association, has been a liaison between the city and PGAV Planners, a St. Louis-based urban planning and architecture firm, to develop a plan under the DREAM Initiative.

"Basically, in conjunction with the master plan that the city paid to have done maybe six or seven years ago, the information in the DREAM Initiative and what the master plan lays out, DREAM tells us as a community, 'When you are ready to try something and to continue to move forward, the recommendations are there,'" said Bishop, who clarified that she is not employed by the city of Cassville.

The city paid $44,160.34 to the Missouri Development Finance Board and received a $10,000 grant from the same state agency for the DREAM Initiative, said Darelyn Cooper, city clerk.

Earlier this year, the financial assistance review was finalized, said Mike Hemmer, associate director at PGAV Planners. He is currently working with the city and Bishop to complete a housing market analysis, a retail market analysis and a downtown strategic plan.

"I hope to have that downtown strategic plan in draft form in the city's hands the first half of next year," Hemmer said.

The plan is more than just a laundry list of all of the recommendations from the other reports.

"We try to pull those recommendations out and fit them into maybe eight or 10 goals that the city can work on," said Hemmer, who also pointed out that the Cassville Area Chamber of Commerce could play a role in the downtown revitalization. "We hope it will be a plan, a good road map for the future, but maybe some things have to come before other things, like if an incentive district is proposed, then obviously there are some things that can be paid for after that, [if that does occur]."

According to a May 2013 document, PGAV Planners recommended concepts that include streetscape improvements along Main Street, a proposed roundabout to replace the traffic light at Main Street and Highway 76, rehabilitation and maintenance of existing buildings, particularly around the square, and enhancements at the 10th Street park and the courthouse square.

In the Cassville residential market, the St. Louis firm has recommended: "The city should more firmly enforce maintenance and building codes, ensuring that property owners maintain safe structures. This will require concerted effort and expense; but firm and fair enforcement will raise property values throughout the city, encourage new private investment and save many structures by preventing minor maintenance issues from becoming major repairs. In some cases, dilapidated property should be demolished.

"The city should review its zoning code and determine if the conversion of large single-family homes to multiple-family housing is being encouraged. Implementing zoning measures to prevent this type of residential conversion will maintain the integrity of these stately properties and may increase demand for other properties and housing types in downtown.

"The city should also review its zoning for land-use conflicts. In some cases, residential property is in close proximity to some incompatible uses, such as the Barry County Jail. Additionally, existing zoning has allowed significant amounts of public/institutional uses in downtown."

The concepts would require funding and more engineering if they are to become reality, Hemmer said.

"We're trying to encourage the idea of the city taking these as a project and moving forward," he said.

The DREAM Initiative started in 2006, and it formed 39 DREAM communities throughout the state. The Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission oversee the initiative.

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