EDITOR'S NOTE: The money from the DREAM initiative is used to pay a planning firm, and doesn't stay with the city government.
The Uptown Jackson Redevelopment Organization is making progress on immediate projects to promote uptown merchants while working with the state to receive a $180,000 Missouri DREAM Initiative grant.
Adam Ross, board president and manager of Ross Furniture in Jackson, said membership has been shifting but a strong core group of members has been actively involved and that he expects to cement the board's 12 spots soon. The organization's bylaws are nearing completion and four committees have been created to tackle the group's goals -- a design committee, promotions committee, economic restructuring committee and executive organization committee.
In its monthly meeting Tuesday, discussion centered on efforts by the promotions and design committees. Board member Lisa Welker reviewed December's Christmas window art project, which involved local students painting uptown merchant's windows with holiday themes. Welker said she thought the project could be improved by starting earlier next year and consulting more closely with business owners about the images they'd like to see. Overall, the board received positive feedback from visitors and vendors.
Tom Strickland, the organization's treasurer, discussed preliminary plans for planting flowers this spring and fall. He proposed having student groups collaborate with the local chapter of the University of Missouri master gardener program to fill baskets and planters uptown. Vendor donations and possible grant money would finance the project.
The most elaborate idea in the works is a spring music event, to possibly coincide with local sports tournaments and the farmers market, designed to "to try to get a huge crowd uptown," Ross said.
Ross hopes that board events will inspire people to get involved.
"When things really start going, we are going to need some volunteers," Ross said.
Jackson was selected in 2010 as a Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri Initiative community. The state initiative assists small to midsize communities in improving their historic centers. The organization website says "a revitalized downtown leads to increased property values, sales tax revenue and improved quality of life in and beyond a downtown's borders."
DREAM requires a three-year contract with the state in which city infrastructure and land use is assessed, community and consumer feedback is gathered and housing, marketing and tourism possibilities are analyzed, culminating in a strategic plan that will be presented to the city for adoption. At the end of the study, Jackson should receive $179,904 to help it realize the goals of the plan. Once the city agrees to the plan, it will match 20 percent of the grant funding.
The Uptown Jackson Redevelopment Organization was created in an effort to involve business owners in the process and will eventually seek not-for-profit status so it can apply for additional funding to continue projects beyond the initial three years. Janet Sanders, planning and building superintendent for Jackson, prepared the DREAM application and represents the city on the board.
So far, focus groups have been held to determine what brings people to uptown and what people would like to see in the area. Ross said a preliminary version of the focus group data, prepared by PGAV Planners of St. Louis, reported community members want more places for people to congregate uptown, like a family-style restaurant, coffee shop or second-run movie theater.
Ross said the group intends to create events and projects separate from the DREAM Initiative that will improve the uptown experience for business and residents in the short term, while planning for the elements that will eventually be in the strategic plan.
"Right now that is what we are focusing on, getting things jump-started," Ross said.
Anyone who is interested can be added to the organization's email list or attend the board's meetings, which are at 5:30 p.m. the first Tuesday of the month in the conference room at the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. Ross may be contacted at 243-3108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
125 E. Main St., Jackson, MO