Uptown Jackson awaits word on historic status

Monday, January 30, 2006

Building renovations and change in traffic flow are considered in a bid to bring attention to the Main and High streets area.

Jackson's uptown historic district committee chairman was hoping the city's uptown would be approved for the National Register of Historic Places on Friday -- but it didn't happen. Now it may be a matter of days before the uptown receives a place on the registry.

Chairman Tom Strickland said the uptown historic district committee was originally expecting to know by the end of this month if Jackson's uptown was approved.

"We were told there was some sort of formality, and we may hear something any time," Strickland said. "At the state level, we received all high marks and we were told that there shouldn't be any problem at getting on the national list."

The business district was notified last August it was placed on the Missouri Department of Natural Resource's register of historic places.

The uptown historic district committee, which was formed more than a year ago by the Jackson Chamber of Commerce, has developed preliminary plans for restoring a historic atmosphere to the city's uptown. The plans include installing historic lighting and reconstructing of High Street.

If plans are approved by the city, High Street will have one-way traffic from Main Street to Jefferson Street and angled parking on both sides. Strickland said approximately 25 parking spaces will be created from the change in traffic flow.

"This will be a big boost for the merchants to have the additional parking," he said. "It will also be much easier to park."

The committee also has plans to install benches on the sidewalks along High Street.

In addition, the committee wants to create seating areas on the lawn of the Cape Girardeau County Courthouse.

"Over the next month or so, I hope to present these plans to both the city of Jackson and the county commission," Strickland said. "Since these are city and county properties, we have to get approval from both to move on with the projects."

The committee's goal for the restoration project is to bring more merchants into the area.

"We also want to create an atmosphere where people want to come shop," Strickland said.

The idea of a historic district originated after Strickland, who owns two uptown buildings, refurbished one old building and is the process of doing another. He was seeking a designation on the National Register of Historic Places when he was told that an entire district could be included.

A historic district would give individual property owners tax credits if they chose to restore their buildings to the original look.

"There's already some renovation projects being done by various building owners," Strickland said.

The Jackson Chamber of Commerce, located at 125 E. Main St., finished renovating its building last week. The building's mortar was sandblasted and replaced, and all the woodwork was re-painted.

Cheryl Merkler, assistant director of the chamber of commerce, believes the renovations will bring life to Jackson's uptown.

"I think this will help attract new businesses to the area, and it will bring people to the uptown to come shop," she said. "We have a beautiful town anyway, and this will just enhance it."

Because the committee hopes to get a more uniform appearance in the uptown area, business owners may be asked to install new canopies.

Eddie Ross, owner of Ross Furniture, likes the idea of the restorations to uptown. But it will be up to his building owner, who lives outside of Jackson, to agree with any changes.

"It's a real positive thing and we're going to look into it," he said. "Every town needs to spruce up every once in awhile."

In all, 22 historic buildings on Main and High streets are included in the district.

jfreeze@semissourian.com

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