FULTON - Empty buildings and "For Sale" signs have been a mainstay in Fulton's downtown area for some time now, but that's all about to change.
After more than three years of planning and data gathering, the downtown area of Fulton will be getting a facelift soon.
In 2008, the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative selected Fulton to be a part of its economic stimulus program. The goal of the initiative is to transform the downtown region, and provide more jobs in the area.
Fulton's Community Development Officer Gayla Dunn said, "Now we're in the project phase where we will select what businesses will be added to the area and how they will be funded."
Dunn said further polling and surveying of Fulton's citizens will accomplish this.
The DREAM initiative, in partnership with the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Development Finance Board, the Missouri Housing Development, and the Downtown Fulton Brick District Association, has set up preliminary plans to modify the downtown area.
The first is to change the parking system in the Brick District.
The plan is to increase signage and beautify the Market Street lot across from Fulton's Police Station, which is only one block away from Court Street, downtown's main street.
Downtown Fulton Brick District Association President Thomas Riley said, "This is a six month experiment for easier, more convenient customer parking."
The plan will also include employee parking spaces that are a block away from where they work. "There will be a parking lot with more than 40 spots for downtown employees. This will open up more spots for customers," Riley said.
In addition to new parking, Dunn said a new web page for new businesses will be up and running soon. "It's designed for downtown recruitment as well as being promotional. Businesses can use it to attract people downtown."
Callaway Bank, in alliance with the Brick District Association, is offering an incentive for those who want to start a business in the heart of downtown Fulton. The bank is planning to offer a start up loan with 2% interest for any new businesses.
Each new business will also be assisted by a retail specialist to help better prepare them for their new home in the Brick District.
"The retail specialists are architects who specialize in drawing the public eye toward new businesses," Dunn said.
The businesses that now populate the Brick District say the area is in desperate need of a change.
Cornerstone Antiques owner Sharon Vaught said she's had to alter the way she sells her products because of downtown's dragging economy.
"Business has been slow", she said, "So I cut it [the days the store is open] to three days a week and in those three days that I'm not open, I've started internet businesses on Etsy and Ebay".
Vaught also said that the lack of business has caused her to lose the love she once had for what she does.
"If you don't get the feedback of people coming in and buying the items you sell, you just lose interest," she said, "It's just not as much fun".
The Fulton City Council will meet next month to further discuss changes to downtown.