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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Having vision; Teams of community members working to revitalize downtown

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Efforts to revitalize downtown, which started in August 2012, continue to progress.

Sixteen people who are part of the Downtown Action Team met Jan. 29. Their mission is mission statement is to preserve the history of downtown Fort Scott by using retail and residential space and tourism to create a sustainable cultural, retail and culinary experience.

"We want each of the subcommittees to focus on these," said Lindsay Madison, a co-covenor along with Macy Cullison and Gary Palmer.

Participants divided into three groups of personal interest such as green space, buildings, infrastructure and events.

To accomplish the mission, the team hopes to provide sources and tools to:

* Allow retail and residential spaces to be occupied.

* Provide a cohesive styling of all buildings and spaces downtown.

* Increase the transient tax because of a greater number of overnight tourism visits.

* Increase historic byway signage to spur tourism.

* Make sure residents are proud that the downtown area is a place to go for social events, shopping and dining.

* And ensure the history of the city is easily accessible throughout the downtown area, noted Cullison.

Ideas to make this happen are having an incubator space to develop small businesses; recruiting opportunities; providing maintenance assistance; providing connections to business resources; and searching for grant programs to assist in growing businesses.

"An incubator space is a temporary shared office and kitchen space and shared supplies, with a mentorship provided," Cullison said.

Madison noted that Main Street Gallery and Gifts, 23 S. Main, is kind of an incubator, she said. She added that the Chatty Greek shop moved there recently to develop that business and there are other vendor spaces available.

Madison reported that there are many other positive things happening in the historic downtown district.

"The Rygmyrs, who own Papa Don's (at 10 N. Main) are expanding to 8 N. Main; the Common Grounds Coffee shop is close to opening, Bids and Dibs is having their ribbon cutting Friday at 8 a.m.; the Sleep Inn is waiting for SBA approval. It's the vacant lot just across from the chamber office (on Wall Street), and the Downtowner building has sold. It's been on the market for years. It will be one part flea market and other business spaces for rent," Madison told the group.

When the three sub-groups met in smaller groups, they were asked to select a team leader to schedule and lead monthly team meetings; have notes taken by a committee member; report back to the co-conveners; and ensure that the team is taking action to benefit the downtown.

Additionally, participants were asked to list everyone on their team, come up with a mission for that team and set the next meeting date.

Although each group should have its own purpose and goals, those objectives should center around the original mission statement, Palmer said.

"The last three times we've met, we've migrated toward the green space. The green space is wonderful and versatile in use, but my passion is the building and infrastructure area. I plan to be engaged in that," Palmer added.

The green space Palmer referred to includes the empty lots at the corner of Wall and Main streets, where some buildings burned down some years back.

"Putting something useful in that space to draw people downtown is our goal," Cullison said, adding that art, history, agriculture and youth will need to be a part of the venture.

"Possibly a stage, a fountain that turns into an ice skating rink in the winter, a big chess board with a chess tournament," added Madison.

Elaine Buerge is researching ideas to enhance the entrances to the town and also brass plaques to identify historic buildings.

Cynthia McFarlin spoke about an idea the events sub-group had of linking events, such as the United Way barbecue contest coming up in March or April, with downtown. "We have someone who is going to encourage them to have it downtown," McFarlin said.

Palmer announced the building and infrastructure group will meet the second Tuesday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at the Common Grounds Coffee shop on Main Street.

"I thought it was a great meeting with a positive vibe. Everyone present seemed passionate about making a difference in downtown. I have seen this morning that the B & I team (Buildings & Infrastructure) have already set up their own Facebook page and created an event for their next meeting on Feb. 12, at 5:15 p.m. at the Common Grounds Coffee shop," Madison said in an interview on Wednesday morning.

For more information contact Cullison at mcullison@fscity.org or (620) 237-8463; Madison at fschamber@fortscott.com or 224-6004; or Palmer at garyp@fortscott.edu or 224-1001.

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