Cassville Main Street Association makes downtown plans
Traffic circle, landscaping, streetscape designs on agenda
The Cassville Main Street Association recently invited the community to hear "Share the Vision," a comprehensive presentation outlining five years of research collected for the purpose of downtown revitalization.
The presentation was shared by Andrew Murray with PGAV, a design and planning firm based in St. Louis, which completed the research, and Kim Martin with the Missouri Department of Economic Development.
About 20 guests attended the meeting at the Barry County Museum.
"People felt very positive about it," said Carolyn Bishop, association president. "PGAV really zeroed in on the need for everyone to meet together as a community to help propel the Cassville downtown area further."
Murray, PGAV senior project manager, urged guests to put in their dollars, time and taxes like their grandfathers had done to make Cassville the booming farming community it was and to keep it revitalized.
"The downtowns [in our country] have gone through an identity crisis," Murray said. "Our goal is to figure out how to revive the these places."
Among the billboards displayed at the meeting showing proposed improvements were a park on 10th Street, a traffic circle at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 112, improvements to courthouse landscaping, visual improvements to business fronts, and streetscape designs, including lamp posts and benches.
Attendee ideas on what types of changes they'd like to see included new restaurants, specialty retail shops, a tea room, a coffee and sandwich shop and movie theater.
Murray reviewed a chart showing the amount of dollars actually leaving Cassville in lost sales, due to online purchases, residents traveling to Rogers, Ark., or Springfield to make purchases, and visitors who are not coming into Cassville.
"Andrew referred us to data from the DNR to utilize showing all the people who come through to go to Roaring River State Park to use as as draw to our downtown area, and we're missing that [traffic]," Bishop said.
Murray also reviewed key strategic goals, including: increasing demand and opportunity for downtown retail space, improving existing downtown businesses, addressing stormwater issues, capitalizing on visitors traveling to Roaring River and Eureka Springs, Ark., and finding a long-term funding source for revitalization.
"The plan includes an implementation component where it talks about the different action items, and within part of that matrix there are different organizations identified to assist in implementation of those steps," Murray said.
The three most influential groups include the city, the chamber and the Main Street Association, he added.
Bishop said ideas shared from guests that were consistent across the board included more upscale restaurants and specialty retail shops.
Information on grant programs available through the Missouri Department of Economic Development to create long-term funding for projects were shared by Martin, along with specific taxes that could create revenue.
"We will start searching more diligently for grants that are available for a nonprofit organization, and work with the city to see how we can get involved with those grants," Bishop said.
"Anything we can do to enhance the way that area looks, and help the flood issues would be a benefit to the entire community," said Landon Fletcher, vice president and manager of First State Bank, who attended the meeting. "It would be nice to find investors who would be willing to put some businesses in those empty buildings around the square. There are some economic development-type programs we've looked at through the community foundation in conjunction with community development programs so PACE may look at some options to enhance businesses or open new ones.
"Another aspect is to come up with some tax incentives or credits to assist new business owners, like the TIF district in Monett. And I think there was some tax abatement the county gave Walmart a certain period of time. With any rural community, the question is how do you attract more business and industry, and that has been a challenge since 2008-2009 recession. We've got areas on Highway 37 that are prime property for development, and I can see a nice restaurant up there with a motel/hotel arrangement, and that kind of expansion is what we need to see to bring more people here."
To answer that question, Murray shared the best way to attract new businesses to the city include approaching specific businesses, and using business incubators, versus spending dollars on mass marketings.
"I would say the most effective methods to bring in new businesses is to determine what type of businesses you are most interested in [and look at neighboring communities of a similar size], and approach business owners in those communities about opening another store here," he said. "Or, home-growing businesses in your community, [business incubators,] is a lot more effective than trying to get a chain business."
Murray said incubator programs through the chamber have been successful in other communities to help new businesses get off the ground.
"In the meeting, it was mentioned that there are a lot of artisans and craftsmen who might be interested in opening a business, but might need a little help," he said. "I think having those one-on-one conversations with people, and providing incentives such as shared office space or temporary reduced rent, and knowing there's a strong community of business owners who are going to support you, are very good options."
Murray also addressed the importance of improving the city's ongoing stormwater issues, such as constructing catch basins, which PGAV provided research to support.
"The city can continue to work on infrastructure and beautification, which shows the city is invested in its downtown, and that is always a signal to the private sector that this is a place where you should place your business because we're investing for the long term," he said.
The association will meet next week to discuss its next steps for implementation.
"Andrew said that to be a successful community, we must provide the things that people say they want, be unique, and sell customer service," Bishop said. "We have the basic ideas out there and continue to move forward."