Charleston, a Community with Drive

March 20, 2024 | Ben White

We are excited to report that Charleston Revitalization Movement (CHARM), currently in the Community Empowerment Grant program, continues to make great strides in developing a sustainable, community-led Main Street program. Charleston first showed Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) its drive to see its community revitalized through its strong application when it was selected as part of our competitive grant for services that provides training, community-led direction, and support. Missouri Main Street Connection partners with the United States Department of Agriculture through their Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant to deliver additional Promotion, Design, and Economic Vitality services to selected communities. This process, enhanced with the support of our partners, allows communities to come together through input sessions to determine what is important for the future of their downtown and to come together with a unified vision.

During the latest service visit to Charleston, MO, CHARM received training and services that complement the progress their board, committees, and other volunteers have accomplished since starting the service grant program. Additional education on three of the four points of the Main Street Approach™, Promotion, Design, and Economic Vitality, were provided by MMSC and a team of consultants. Continued training and education on Main Street ideas and methodology has proven to strengthen the work that is accomplished by the volunteers of a local Main Street program. Regardless if a Main Street program is in its infancy or is an established Accredited program, the organization benefits from continuing education.

The idiom “The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago and the second-best time is today” is true for Main Street organizations when it comes to their identity. Forming an identity and brand is vital for any nonprofit that wants to be seen more as a long-term investment rather than a temporary trend or fad. As part of the services provided, CHARM received a comprehensive and cohesive branding and implementation service from Ben Muldrow with Arnett Muldrow and Associates. The service utilized input from their community to guide the consultant’s design.

The volunteers in Charleston are so excited to be utilizing the Main Street Approach™ and have such a drive to collaborate with their stakeholders that their energy has rubbed off on business and property owners who wanted to take steps towards improving their building. Because of this tenacity, façade renderings for two building owners to showcase the potential of the properties were provided by MMSC consultants. Additionally, they were provided design-related recommendations including ordinance review, beautification, vibrancy amenities, façade improvements, pocket park activation recommendations, and recommendations on removing the existing awning system and replacing it with a system that better highlights each building’s unique architecture. Finally, materials for business support, retention, strategic recruitment, and ideas on locally led financial support for business and property development were provided.

Missouri Main Street Connection is confident that these resources, examples, and targeted short-term and long-term recommendations for the downtown and community will grow the capacity of the organization and inspire future growth in downtown. CHARM has already accomplished so much with the community’s input and support in such a short time, including but not limited to: new restaurants and retail businesses; new building ownership and investment; an engaged and diverse Main Street board of directors; received a pass-through grant from Missouri Main Street Connection to activate greenspace in downtown; received a grant from Main Street America for entrepreneurial ecosystem building, and have used their Transformation Strategies, Multi-Generational and Entrepreneurship, to develop activities based on the information gathered at the Town Hall and community survey. MMSC is excited to see the organization’s and community’s continued growth using the resources and recommendations of this latest service and the drive of the volunteers in the community to create a more thriving downtown.

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