Marta Churchwell: Downtown Economic Resurgence Continues With Cornell Complex | Lifestyles

ByShannon J. Cortes

May 20, 2022

Downtown neighborhoods across America are experiencing a resurgence after decades of withering as businesses moved to outlying commercial areas. Downtown Joplin is no different.

It was the advent of our interstate highway system that spelled the end of downtown neighborhoods everywhere. Businesses began to move to the arterial streets of the city that connected the freeways, and soon these became commercial strips filled with malls, malls, restaurants and bars, cinemas and shopping malls. events. Think Joplin’s Range Line, from the late 1960s.

Gradually, however, all that changed. The hearts of communities – their downtowns – began to beat again as these commercial strips became overfilled with chain stores and mindless traffic jams. This commercial hub has led local business owners to move into downtown neighborhoods where the pace is slower and more visible, allowing them to establish an identity. At the same time, they help a downtown neighborhood better reflect community character.

Joplin followed this trend, and it is undeniable that the arts contributed to it.

The comeback of our downtown neighborhood was pushed about 15 years ago when over 1,000 people packed Main Street for our original monthly art walks. Restaurants and bars took advantage, showing other local businesses that there was a profit to be made downtown. Little by little, the empty buildings were taken over by various businesses or transformed into residential lofts.

There’s no doubt that the opening of the Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex this fall will help make our downtown a hotspot for arts and entertainment and unique shopping, dining and dining experiences. , drink and life.

It’s only natural that the designation of a downtown arts district is part of that, a way to market not only the arts, but also the businesses that make up the downtown core. City Council gave its approval to such a neighborhood as a marketing tool three years ago after local businesswoman and arts leader Linda Teeter pitched the concept as a way to embrace our reputation as an arts community. and to promote the city center as a tourist destination.

The neighborhood Teeter has been feverishly working on since then includes 56 blocks from B Street south to 12th Street and from Wall Avenue east to Pennsylvania Avenue.

After City Council approval, Teeter began to formally develop the Arts District by forming a Board of Supervisors and obtaining state designation as a nonprofit organization, allowing donations to the District to be tax deductible. Because the city pledged no money to the district, Teeter and his board had to rely on contributions and a $40 membership fee to pay for district training and marketing expenses. To date, 67 companies have become members — stakeholders as Teeter calls them.

The district has been registered with online charitable giving platforms such as Amazon Smile, the PayPal Giving Fund and GuideStar Network for Good, which have raised approximately $2,000 in designated donations for the arts district.

Teeter considered neighborhood signage a priority from the start. It all started with the unveiling of a 2020 welcome mural outside Covert Electric Supply at the northern entrance to the neighborhood at B and Main streets. It was followed last year by a painted sign recognizing the neighborhood and hung at the Wayne Heath Barbershop on the south end of the neighborhood at 12th and Main streets. Fundraising for additional murals and panels continues.

In the meantime, neighborhood maps have been developed and distributed to businesses and hotels across the city. The maps list the locations of the district’s major arts and nonprofit businesses, murals and parks, restaurants and bars, and retail and service businesses. They also offer directions to nearby neighborhoods, such as Murphysburg and East Town.

The most recent project Teeter carried out on behalf of the Arts District was to refresh the gardens and restore other features of Spiva Park at Fourth and Main streets in the heart of the district. The Joplin Parks and Recreation Department worked with Teeter to improve the park, which honors patron and philanthropist George A. Spiva. He had the park built in 1966 and donated it to the city. A bronze sculpture of him, seated on a bench, stands in the park.

Last week, a battalion of corporate volunteers, along with Spiva’s grandson Scott Cragin, converged on the park to clean and redesign the flower beds and plant new flowers and shrubs. The project will also include the installation of a sign bearing the name of the park, as well as an iris sculpture donated by the Spiva family. The iris is the official flower of the city, and it was George Spiva’s favorite flower.

Some of the park’s features, such as a miner’s statue and a fountain adorned with cherub jets surrounded by brickwork, will be assessed for necessary repairs.

Much of Teeter’s work in developing the Arts District has been building community relationships to bring attention to the downtown core, promote more activity there, and attract more tourists.

“Tourism is essential for increasing business revenue and bringing people to the sidewalks,” she says. “This arts district is one more outlet for businesses to let people know they’re here.”