Southeast Missouri State University was honored July 28 with the Premier Partner Award at the Missouri Main Street Connection’s (MMSC) Evening of Excellence Awards in Washington, Missouri, where the organization celebrated 10 years of downtown revitalization excellence at its annual Main Street Conference.
Also honored with Outstanding Leadership Awards were Dr. Steven Hoffman, Southeast professor of history and coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program at Southeast, and Bridgette Kelch, Main Street director in Washington, Missouri, and a 2000 Southeast alumna.
The ceremony honored communities, individuals, businesses and civic organizations that have completed exemplary work in downtown revitalization. Awards were presented in 16 categories.
Premier Partner Award
Southeast was honored with the Premier Partner Award in recognition of the University’s and Old Town Cape’s long and rich history of partnership in the revitalization efforts in downtown Cape Girardeau. The University began the creative joint venture that led to the creation of Old Town Cape in 1999 as a way to engage the city’s citizens, business owners, property owners and local officials to promote the revitalization of the downtown commercial district. This relationship has endured and grown, becoming a model for other university communities to emulate.
The core of the partnership is the multifaceted in-kind support offered to Old Town Cape by the University, including faculty expertise, student work study time, computers and information technology services. Old Town Cape and downtown stakeholders benefit from student work in the downtown, including the creation of a student art garden at the corner of Broadway and Sprigg. The park includes a student created sculpture that is updated each year with a new piece.
The partnership also has allowed for a student – generally the Southeast Student Government president — to serve on the Old Town Cape Board. And through another partnership, Catapult — a University-driven art gallery, retail and coffee shop — was created at 612 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau. This project brought together students from different majors, faculty and business leaders to create a commercial learning laboratory on Main Street. This partnership has many beneficiaries from students and faculty to visitors and residents.
Outstanding Leadership Awards
Hoffman, president of the MMSC Board of Directors, was honored with an Outstanding Leadership Award. He joined the MMSC Board in 2006 and quickly became an important part of the MMSC. He leads, participates and travels extensively to many MMSC meetings and trainings.
“Steven is my rock,” said Gayla Roten, MMSC state coordinator. “When I need to talk through a problem or try to find a solution, he is always there to listen and help. We have grown so much during these 10 years, and much of it is due to Steven’s unwavering expertise. He is our mentor and our friend.”
Kelch also was honored with an Outstanding Leadership Award. She was one of the founding members of MMSC in 2006. She served on the first Board of Directors, and still serves with great purpose for the mission and vision of the entire state Main Street Program.
“Bridgette always has big ideas and is willing to put in the work to accomplish those big ideas,” Roten said. “We needed that when we were first starting and for our continued success. Bridgette is never afraid to try something new. She is our cheerleader!”
Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC), launched as a non-profit organization in 2006, is designed to help communities preserve their historic buildings and reinvigorate their downtown districts. Through this work, the communities actively participating in the Missouri Main Street Program have successfully created 526 net new businesses and 2,936 net new jobs.
What started as a small group effort with only volunteers has grown into a statewide organization with six professional staff members and 16 Board members that serve over 140 Missouri communities with revitalization training, mentoring and technical services, state conferences, advocacy, and research.
Today MMSC is supported financially by corporate sponsors, individual contributors, grants, and the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED). The current Board of Directors is comprised of Main Street professionals, revitalization and preservation specialists, professors, attorneys, bankers, legislators and Missouri DED staff members.
Based on economic data collected from the communities in the top three tiers of the Missouri Main Street program, since 2006, $683 million of private investments have been made in the Main Street communities. Public investments by municipal governments have totaled $140 million in improvements to infrastructure.
Photo Caption: From left are Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape; Dr. Carlos Vargas, president of Southeast Missouri State University; and Dr. Steven Hoffman, professor of history and coordinator of the Historic Preservation Program at Southeast Missouri State University.