Missouri small town wins grant to revitalize its downtown
PARIS - Small Missouri towns are taking action to revive their historic downtown buildings.
A city in Monroe County, Missouri won a grant to revitalize its downtown.
Paris, Missouri received the downtown revitalization grant from Missouri Main Street Connection, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving historic small towns by providing education, financial assistance, design and promotion.
The city of Paris was selected from a competitive pool of applicants.
“They need to show a need and show a willingness to make the changes in their downtown,” state community development director Keith Winge said.
Missouri Main Street Connection covers 60 percent of the cost of the services, while the community has to raise the other 40 percent of the $24,000 total.
Wesley Hammond is pastor of the First Baptist Church of Paris and has lived in the town over 20 years.
"I've lived in Texas, Nevada, but there is no place like Paris, Missouri."
He stepped up as president of the board of directors for the Paris downtown partnership after seeing the decay of the downtown buildings and declining population.
"Our school enrollment has dropped by about 50 percent in the 20 years that I've been here," he said.
City hall is located in the historic school building. Hammond said he’s eager to see what could be done to revamp the space. He thinks improvements made to the city will have positive effects on the Paris school district.
Winge said community members who came to a town hall in February also had the building at the top of their list, but different visions of what it could look like.
"What do we do with this behemoth of a building? It has good bones but we don't have a current use for it,” he said.
The grant program consists of two years of training, workshops, collecting opinions and laying a foundation. Residents are invited to workshops outside of the community hosted in other “Missouri Main Street” towns.
The next steps are collecting demographic information and using that to create a list of priorities.
Winge said towns like Paris are never finished being reworked.
“We have some main street programs in Missouri that are 30 years old and their to-do lists are as big as they were when they were ten years old,” he said.