Jackson merchants looking forward to uptown renovations

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Many of Jackson's uptown merchants are ecstatic about the buzz surrounding the revitalization of the business district. They're hoping the future renovations to the uptown will bring more people to Jackson -- and more customers to their stores.

In February, the Jackson historic district committee received notice that the uptown had been added to the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service. For more than a year, the committee sought the national listing. It was notified last August that Jackson's uptown was placed on the Missouri Department of National Resource's register of historic places.

The two listings mean merchants in the uptown business district can start receiving state and federal tax credits if they renovate their historic buildings.

"Anything that can be done to fix this area up will definitely bring more people to the area," said Tonya Landewee, owner of Precious Memories, a bridal and prom dress specialty store. "A couple of the buildings look a little rough."

Landewee is like several other business owners in the district -- they rent their buildings, meaning the owners of the buildings would be responsible for the renovating. "I can't do any of the renovating. It would be up to the owners, and I think it would help them out to renovate if they're ever planning to sell the building," she said.

Several uptown merchants have already renovated their buildings, and now, with available tax credits, more merchants are expected to do so in the near future, said Tom Strickland, committee chairman and owner of two refurbished uptown buildings.

"As renovations continue in uptown Jackson, it is anticipated that we will see new businesses and renewed interest in shopping the uptown," he said.

Alan and Janey Foust own the High Street Center, on the corner of High and East Adams streets. The building, which contains an insurance agency, tanning salon, banquet hall and independent freight truck business, went through renovations in 1997.

"I'm very excited about all of it," Janey Foust said. "I think it will really help the area and it will make it look a lot nicer."

Because the historic district 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. However, there will be some upfront investing.

It will be up to Ross' building owner, who lives outside Jackson, to agree to any changes. Individual building owners would have to agree to pay for consultants, who would complete a study of each building's history. The consultants' cost has not been disclosed, but the more owners who participate, the lower the cost would be for individual property owners.

"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 a while."

Mark Guilliams, owner of Direct Line Marketing at 102 S. Missouri St., has been restoring his building to its historic look. The 85-year-old building is a former machine shop.

"I think once the uptown merchants find out they can receive tax credits, a lot more will start to restore their buildings," he said. Guilliams received a 45 percent reimbursement of his renovation projects, which include new windows, paint and flooring.

The committee's next step in restoring the historic feel to the business district will be presenting the city of Jackson and Cape Girardeau County Commission with preliminary plans for enhancement projects. The plans include historic lighting, benches, a new walkway with benches and lighting on the courthouse lawn and the reconstruction of High Street for one-way traffic to create additional parking.

Uptown merchants like the idea of more parking -- it's something that they say is a much needed addition to the business district.

"Parking is our customers' biggest complaint," Landewee said. "It's hard for them to carry dresses two blocks down the street."

The distinction of being on the national register gives the historic district committee more points when applying for grants, Strickland said. The committee plans to seek various grants to fund the enhancement projects.

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

jfreeze@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 246

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