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Citizen input wanted for online DREAM survey

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative moves into a new phase this week with the launch of a web-based public survey about the project. The survey can be taken on-line at www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22EQKWVY9AY.

"This is an opportunity for members of the community to influence the direction of downtown Monett," said project manager Andrew Murray. "The results will assist in establishing priorities and future projects. This is an easy way for people to get involved and contribute their ideas for downtown."

Murray said previous DREAM meetings have focused on stakeholders in the downtown, such as residents, business and property owners. The web-based survey is meant to get input from the broader community.

"Sometimes, the downtown and web surveys agree and sometimes they have a different opinion," Murray said. "We really do look at the survey results when we put together the strategic plan and the retail market analysis."

Murray joined the DREAM effort for Monett in February, succeeding Patrick Hanlon, who changed jobs within the urban planning firm of Peckham Guyton Albers and Viets (PGAV). Murray grew up in Mt. Vernon and worked with the focus groups whose comments helped shape questions for the current survey.

Murray reported on findings from the focus groups to the Monett Main Street Board. The most common words used by the focus groups to describe Monett were "industry/jobs, progressive, family oriented, friendly and cooperation."

Most participants in the focus groups felt Monett was moving in the right direction with a strong jobs base, consequently having a larger daytime population.

"Most felt like downtown was either stagnant or moving slowly in the right direction," Murray reported.

The focus groups commented about Monett's history of supporting economic development through public and private partnerships and civic support, rather than through raising taxes.

Participants liked the idea of loft apartments downtown, especially for students and young professionals. They also wanted to increase involvement between Hispanic and non-Hispanic business communities.

Major issues for the downtown cited by the focus groups included: flooding; few entertainment options; lack of restaurants; retiring business owners; absentee landowners; code enforcement; fašades on older buildings needing repair or renovation; a lack of a "critical mass" to draw retail customer and the need for more aesthetic appeal.

The three-year DREAM process for Monett is nearing the halfway point. Murray said all the input received from the web-based community survey will help in forming the reports on building design guidelines, streetscape improvement, housing analysis and retail market analysis.

"Our goal at the end of the day is to have people brought into the long-range plan for downtown," Murray said. "It will show here's how we get there and here's how we pay for it. DREAM exists to have things happen, not just to have a pretty plan."

The survey will remain open until at least 100 responses have been received. Murray said he would be happy having 10 times that number.

Conducting surveys requires a large audience sample. A phone survey can increase totals but may not reach the broadest sample, such as those with no land lines if a local phone book is used as the calling source.

Presently, Murray is working on a web site for Monett's DREAM effort and a marketing brochure. He planned to continue providing updates on DREAM for the Main Street Board, which meets next on April 25.

A public presentation on survey results will be made later this year.

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