Historic revitalization gathers momentum
February 01, 2006
JOPLIN - With downtown renovation efforts underway, the City’s Design Review Committee is anticipating a flurry of activity to closely follow. Their role is to evaluate all proposed exterior renovations to buildings in the historic downtown area to ensure conformity to established design review standards.

Sidewalk and streetlight replacements are the first steps in the streetscaping phase. Workers are currently removing the pebble surface of sidewalks in the 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street in order to replace it with concrete edged with brick pavers. Streetlights that will be more pedestrian friendly will be installed with poles that are similar to those in the early 1900s. The removed streetlights will later be placed in areas on Main Street north or south of the downtown corridor to create a “gateway” effect. Plans call for the first two blocks of the project to be completed by early summer 2006.

“This project is much more visible, and there is an excitement in the air downtown,” said City Manager Mark Rohr. “We are hearing that people are anticipating the finished version of these first two blocks. Property owners are also talking, and have inquired about the façade improvement program that the City offers.”

Design review is the first step in the process of the façade improvement program, the companion project to the streetscaping effort. Applications filed by property owners downtown asking for grant assistance to refurbish the exterior of their building to its historic look will be evaluated to ensure that the work is uniform with standards duplicating the downtown properties’ original architecture, materials, and building features. Eligible projects include work on various areas including storefronts, awnings, windows, and restoration of exterior brick and/or siding. Applications would then be forwarded to the Joplin Historic Preservation Committee for their review.

Upon recommendation a recipient could receive a grant covering up to 50% of the total project cost or a maximum of $25,000. It should be noted that design review standards apply to all downtown exterior renovation on the 400 and 500 blocks, regardless of whether the property owner is participating in the façade grant application.

“The established standards provide for continuity in the architecture and the aesthetics of the downtown,” said Rohr. “It is important in order to achieve the look and atmosphere we are trying to create.”

The committee meets on the fourth Thursday of each month and plans to review any new applications at each meeting. A total of $215,000 for the project has been alloted by the City in its fiscal 2005 budget. Funding will be administered through a community development block grant program. Applications are available at City Hall, 602 Main Street.

Major steps for downtown revitalization came in 2004 when the Frisco Station Building at 6th and Main was renovated to house senior citizen apartments. On the heels of its opening, the City of Joplin moved City Hall to the historic Newman Building on 6th and Main, bringing over 75 employees to this area of downtown.

“The momentum is building,” said Rohr. “The downtown area has a lot to offer and business and residential prospects are beginning to show interest in the developments. It’s an exciting time.”

The historic downtown area was recently named the “Sunshine Lamp District” to reflect the City’s mining heritage. (Sunshine lamp refers to the light attached to a miner’s hat.) Future projects revolving around this theme still are in the planning stage.

For more information about the downtown revitalization, contact Brian Ross at the community development department, 624-0820, ext. 572.

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