My Community Matters Grant Provides a Vision for Willow Springs
Wed, 09/30/2020 - 3:26pm admin
Main Street Willow Springs was the recipient of a My Community Matters grant through Missouri Main Street Connection. The grant provided funding for community revitalization specialists to visit and assess Willow Springs before offering a presentation of their suggestions for changes and improvements. The purpose of the grant and services is to inspire community members and stakeholders when they see a glimpse of what is possible in their town. Willow Springs is one of ten cities in Missouri to receive this grant.
The Main Street group hosted their guests on the evening of September 23, and on the morning of September 24, there was a public presentation of their findings and ideas.
At 8:00 a.m. in the Ferguson Building on East Main St., Randy Wilson with Community Design Solutions presented rendering and drawings showing possible improvements to downtown spaces to an assembly of business owners, community leaders, and representatives of the City government.
Wilson presented not only his own work, but also the work of architect and landscape designer, Andy Kalback. The suggestion was to focus revitalization efforts at the intersection of Main and Harris Streets.
“It’s a mistake to try to do too much too soon,” Wilson said.
His presentation went on to highlight the importance of landscaping, of pedestrian safety, off-street parking, and exciting “pocket parks.” The downtown area already features multiple areas that could be considered “pocket parks,” namely the gazebo near the intersection with Center Street, the Welcome park near the railroad tracks, and the park with bear statues next to the historic Star Theatre. Suggested improvements to these areas include mobile seating, a canopy of string lights, borders of hedges, and giant games like giant Jenga or giant chess.
“This is a simple and inexpensive way to combat ‘there’s nothing to do downtown’,” Wilson said.
For his own part of the presentation, Wilson introduced the idea of filling the empty storefronts with historic prints or displays to add vibrancy instead of vacancy. He presented renderings of three downtown buildings, showing the possibilities if they were to be restored.
Branding and design consultant Ben Molder spoke next and presented his idea for cohesive branding logos and imagery for Willow Springs. The colors, typeface, graphics, and message he presented belong to Main Street Willow Springs and are part of the grant award. Molder presented his idea for a Willow Springs logo and suggested consistency in imagery among the City, the school district, the Chamber of Commerce, and other groups in town.
He also suggested promoting “historic Willow Springs” instead of “downtown Willow Springs” to be more inclusive.
In an interview after the presentation, Main Street Willow Springs board member Mary Jones said she was “really pleased,” with the presentation. More encouraging than the ideas presented was the community response she said, noting that Willow Springs had the highest participation per capita than another of the other trainings the team had given.
The grant funding provides the presentation and the branding materials, but does not provide any funding for restoration projects, landscaping, or any other materials.
Jones is undaunted, however.
“A lot of what they talked about [on the first night of training] was what we can do without spending money. You can show that you care without spending a lot,” she said.
More than any individual idea presented, Jones reiterated that she was most excited by the idea of the various community organizations coming together to work on a single vision.
From the City of Willow Springs, City Administrator Beverly Hicks said she was, “very impressed with the presenters, and was encouraged to know that there were so many things that Willow Springs is doing right and of the things we lack...they were able to give us solid, specific ideas on how to improve our downtown one bite at a time,” she wrote in an email to Howell County News.
From Hicks’ perspective, one of the most exciting potential projects is improvements to suggested focal point: the intersection of Main and Harris Streets.
“With the new[ly installed road] over-lay, the City sees an opportunity to make our four-way stop the main focus with colored crosswalks and greenery, along with fixing the sidewalks. This is an exciting time to be part of Willow Springs,” she said.
by Amanda Mendez, publisher