Cassville Main Street culminates revitalization plan

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Master plan seeks to reinvigorate, update, beautify the city, businesses

The Cassville Main Street Association and the city of Cassville are in the process of wrapping up a master plan to revitalize the downtown area that started five years ago.

In November 2010, the city landed a grant and partnership with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission called the DREAM initiative, which provides communities with technical and financial assistance for downtown revitalization.

"We are a downtown organization that was started in 2010 with a group of citizens and allows us to hopefully improve our opportunities for federal and state funding programs in Cassville," said Carolyn Bishop, association president. "Our goal is to revitalize our downtown area. Cassville has so many good things that are part of what we are and do, but sometimes you need a bit of a facelift to reinvigorate the community. That's the hope. We're going to request if MoDOT will let us put trees in as they're re-doing the sidewalks. Hopefully, we can come up with a tagline or brand we can emphasize in the community."

The association has a board of eight, including Bishop, Allison Angel, Valerie Speer, Susie Jacobs, Carolyn Hunter, Chuck Pilant, Carolyn Stacy and Teri Shorter.

Eighty percent of the $228,000 grant was paid by the state, and 20 percent, or $44,160.34 was paid by the city.

Cassville was one of 39 cities to snag the grant before it ended. Other nearby communities to get the grant include Monett, Aurora, Neosho and Lamar.

"We were the last round of communities to participate," Bishop said. "Grant applications are substantially enhanced when you have a group of community of people working together with the city's goals," she said. "We brought the Farmers Market to the square on Saturday mornings, and a number of buildings have been enhanced and improved because of the DREAM initiative."

The city hired FleishmanHillard, a marketing services company, for a sum of $15,000 to provide guidance on creating and implementing a unique theme or brand for the downtown area, and a comprehensive marketing toolkit to provide guidance on the following city objectives:

* Create city scapes such as fountains, gardens, trees, public art and clock tower

* Marketing plan for small businesses

* Increase city, community and business engagement

* Recruit new shoppers and businesses

* Social advertising

* Address buildings in disrepair that devalue the downtown area

"It is a summary of what we are trying to do," Bishop said. "And will provide information on what they are bringing to the table. Everything will be completed by May 31. Andrew Murray with PGAV (Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets) planning consultants, will have a public forum to give a summary for everything they have completed."

"We were chosen by the Missouri Development Finance Board, the state agency that developed the DREAM program," said Murray, senior project manager for PGAV. "We're the consultants they chose to provide technical assistance to 39 Missouri communities."

Murray said the company provided a retail market analysis, residential market analysis, building and street scape concept, park design and drawings for MoDOT improvements, which will include planting trees and shrubbery.

"We mapped everything, and we've been providing our assistance for the last five years," he said.

At the end of May or early June, Murray will provide a presentation for the public with his findings.

"I'll give a summary of the strategic plans and the reports and studies we did," Murray said. "We're waiting for FleishmanHillard to do their report, which is the last item to be wrapped up. I think the most important part will be implementation. So we'll have a lot of implementation strategies and possible funding sources I'll talk through.

"We're almost done with the DREAM program. The last two items are the marketing piece and the strategic plan. The nice thing is, while after that point we won't be around anymore to provide technical assistance, the state is committed to the community, and they can pursue funding services. Monett pursued contribution tax credits where the state offers a tax credit, and people can make a donation and write it off on their taxes."

Bishop said the plan was originally a three year plan, but due to delays from the city eliminating a city manager position, it has turned into five years.

"What I have found consistently over the last five or six years is someone has to be in place to utilize the information provided in the master plan and plans provided through PGAV through the DREAM initiative," she said. "Until we get a city manager back in place, the association is trying to use as much of the information as we can to benefit the downtown area. Eugene Dilbeck was the city manager, and Lynette Dilbeck, who was in charge of economic development, applied for the grant, but because we lost city management, it's taken longer to get everything rolled out."

Mayor Bill Shiveley said the city is actually in the process of recruiting for a new city manager.

"We've been working on it," he said. "We hired a consultant and are in final stages in the next few weeks to start interviewing. I think revitalization would be a good thing for the city. We can put some vegetation in to make it look a little more presentable and inviting for people to come in. The city has been the conduit everything came through [for the project]. The marketing piece is the only thing holding up the grant being completed."

After all the pieces have come together, implementation and ownership by the community is key to rolling out the plan, Bishop said.

"We are a stimulus to give owners ideas on what small things can be done to make their businesses look better," she said. "Everything that happens in a community is because of the individuals in it. People just have to take the initiative to paint or remodel but hopefully as they see the downtown area improving its appearance they will want to be a part of that. It's all a process -- it won't happen overnight."

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