State historic preservation group seeks input on program

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Historic preservation in Missouri has increased tourism, created new jobs and led to economic revitalization of some older business districts throughout the state.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources' State Historic Preservation Office is looking for ways to improve its comprehensive preservation plan for the state.

"The current plan has been in effect the past five years," said Gerry Friedman of the state office. "We're looking for recommendations, goals and objectives for the next five years."

Friedman was one of three preservation office representatives in Cape Girardeau Wednesday night to discuss preservation strategies. More than 65 area people attended the special forum, held at Cape Girardeau City Hall. Other state representatives on hand were Jo Ann Radetic, certified local government coordinator, and Tiffany Patterson, National Register coordinator.

Four public meetings will be held in various cities around the state to discuss preservation questions and collect ideas for goals and needs, said Friedman.

"No matter where you live in the state or whether you have been actively involved in historic preservation in past, we want to hear from you," Friedman noted.

The Cape Girardeau forum was the second on the preservation office's schedule. The first forum was last week in St. Louis. Others are scheduled at Springfield April 23 and St. Joseph April 30.

"It will take several months to assess suggestions," said Friedman.

Boost to economy

History preservation has boosted the state's economy by more than a billion dollars a year, said Radetic.

A study completed by Rutgers University earlier this year showed $346 million in historic rehabilitation annually, about $660 million in tourism spending and about $5 million in Main Street Program activity.

The two-year study was funded by a federal Historic Preservation Fund grant of $50,000 from the State Historic Preservation Office, housed within the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

An important component of the study was Missouri's Main Street Program, which was developed to help revitalize the state's downtown areas.

The average annual Missouri Main Street investment is roughly $5.4 million of construction plus retail jobs. According to the Rutgers study, this results in in-state wealth creation of $10 million.

Cape Girardeau's Main Street Program -- Old Town Cape -- is in its third year.

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