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What would you like to see in your Downtown 08.jpg

Look into your crystal ball and tell us what you would see in a bright future for Farmington’s downtown. Then write it down and send it to Doug McDermott at chamber@growingfarmington.com. Comments and suggestions are being collected for a finalized plan to strengthen the city’s downtown, and you can be part of the effort to make the city’s future bright.

It is small business Saturday this weekend, and your local downtown is urging you to take a spin through the neighborhood and support small businesses.

While you are at it, you might take a moment as well to think about your downtown and the things you'd like to see in its future. A planning initiative is under way to improve our downtown called the DREAM initiative. Pieces of the draft plan are available online at the Farmington Downtown Development Association's website downtownfarmingtonmo.org.

Mike Hemmer from PGAV Planners was the featured speaker at the Farmington Chamber of Commerce networking luncheon last week to talk a little about the plan's key points and encourage members to offer suggestions and comments on the current condition and future direction of downtown Farmington.

Those comments can be sent to Doug McDermott at chamber@growingfarmington.com or dropped off at city hall to attention of Greg Beavers.

Several focus groups, meetings and community surveys have been held to develop the draft plan for the DREAM initiative, but it is not too late to add your own thoughts to the mix.

Here's a brief rundown on each of the seven main goals outlined in the draft of the initiative.

• Solidify the Farmington Downtown Development Association (FDDA) as the lead revitalization group

The first goal on the list, strengthening the FDDA as the lead downtown revitalization group, has already begun. The organization was recently taken in under the Chamber of Commerce umbrella in an administrative partnership. The chamber will help provide staffing and leadership support.

The FDDA is still its own separate organization with its own board of directors, but the chamber is serving as a point of contact for the group and assisting them with marketing and promotion efforts.

• Adjust downtown incentive use policies

Current incentives in the downtown area need to be reviewed for effectiveness, and new alternatives should be explored. The creation of a Commercial incentive District or Economic Development Sales Tax may help improve funding mechanisms to develop the downtown.

• Encourage improved building conditions, adaptive reuse and appropriate infill

Preserving buildings within the historic district can help increase tourism and attraction to Farmington's downtown, and the city should review its procedures and increase building maintenance code enforcement efforts. The FDDA can assist the city by providing building maintenance seminars to help property owners understand expectations. New buildings and renovations need to fit the character of downtown, but the city should also remain open to innovative ideas when it comes to conversions of old industrial buildings.

• Improve the user-friendliness of downtown

Expanding store hours, better signs, improved traffic flow are among items in this category that would make the downtown feel more user friendly to visitors. The report recommends that the FDDA develop seminars on customer service, as well as events that will encourage extended evening and weekend hours. Suggestions to reroute traffic around downtown should not be considered at this time, as the businesses need that activity to be successful.

• Relocate or bury electric lines

An expensive undertaking, but one the city has already begun by relocating some facilities along Columbia street. The study recommends continuing those efforts as other improvements to downtown are made.

• Development of downtown residential units

Residential units in the downtown area will help put feet on the street and create a built-in market for retail business downtown. In addition, this can help crate a vibrant safer atmosphere. Ground spaces along Columbia Street should be reserved for retail businesses, but Liberty Street and other existing buildings may be considered for unique residential spaces. Downtown has opportunities for upper floor, loft-style units in several buildings along Columbia.

• Understand visitor needs to Farmington attractions

St. Joe State Park ATV riders and wine trail travelers may have differing needs. One group may be more amenable to certain promotions than others. Understanding the needs of visitors to the city's various attractions can help businesses market to them more effectively. In addition to this, FDDA and the Chamber should work together to survey visitors and develop events, businesses, services and collective marketing efforts that can draw more people to the downtown. Last but not least, while the city has done much to promote a bicycle culture, downtown has few bike racks. The city should consider adding more of these, as well as developing some events and races for bicyclists.

These seven points summarize the contents of the report. The full report also contains a lot of valuable marketing information about the downtown, and is worth a second look by anyone who is crafting a marketing campaign for their business.

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Renée Jean is the Managing Editor for the Farmington Press and a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at (573) 756-8928 or at rjean@dailyjournalonline.com

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