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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

DREAM survey offers support for downtown efforts

Monday, November 5, 2012

Results are in, and there is support for redeveloping Monett's historic downtown, based on a survey conducted by the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiativet.

Andrew Murray, project manager for Monett's effort, provided details on the survey during a work session with the Monett Main Street organization.

The survey was conducted in April through early October with only 54 people responding. Murray Had hoped around 150 would participate. City Administrator Dennis Pyle said nearly 200 responded to the city's survey about the City Park Casino.

"Fifty-four is a difficult number to try to extrapolate the meaning of it," Pyle told The Times. "Still, every little bit of feedback from the public is useful."

According to the income breakdown from the respondents, 20.4 percent who answered the survey earn under $50,000 a year. According to estimates from the 2010 Federal Census, 62.4 percent of Monettans fall within the same income group.

Nearly 36 percent of the respondents fell in the $50,000 to $74,999 annual income range, which represents only 20 percent of Monett's population. Another 35 percent of respondents said they earned $75,000 or more. The Federal Census estimated only 15 percent of Monett's population fit in the high income category.

Almost 60 percent of the respondents identified themselves as men. The census reports Monett's population is nearly evenly divided between men and women, with women numbering 52 percent.

On the right track

Survey respondents were asked if Monett was "moving in the right direction or off track?" Over 60 percent felt the city in general was moving in the right path, while one in four said it was the wrong direction.

Asked to identify high priorities for the community, half the respondents considered reducing flooding in downtown areas as a high priority, the largest response to any of the options. On a scale of one to five, over three quarters listed flooding as a four or five in significance.

Over 60 percent ranked the revitalization of downtown as a four or a five. Over 44 percent ranked repairing major streets as a priority. Over 45 percent listed more big box retail development as a major priority.

Responses for improving emergency services and upgrading parks and recreation facilities were generally evenly divided between low, medium and high priority items.

Nearly half the respondents said they visit downtown Monett more than five times a month. One out of five said they visited downtown less than once a month.

About one out of four respondents said they visit downtown "very often" to shop, conduct business or use government services, including the post office. Close to one out of three said they visit downtown "somewhat often" for shopping, dining, business, special events and government business.

Two out of three people said they seldom or never visit downtown for entertainment, and 86 percent said they seldom or never visit downtown for outdoor recreation, such as walking.

Over 60 percent of respondents rated downtown good or excellent for signage, convenient parking, the condition of the streets and sidewalks and safety during the day. Over half gave high ratings for convenient business hours and parking.

Around 60 percent gave low marks to downtown for available green space, preservation of historic structures, occupied storefronts, the condition of buildings, dining and entertainment options. Respondents were evenly split over the diversity of businesses downtown as being good or not.

Almost 78 percent of respondents placed retaining the historic character of downtown as a priority.

Funding improvements

Almost two out of three respondents said they would support a city-wide tax to pay for flood reduction efforts. Pyle considered the support to be meaningful in providing the city council with direction. Current flood control strategies are estimated to cost $6.2 million.

Over 60 percent of respondents placed a major priority on seeing more family or casual dining in the downtown district. Interest in other types of businesses was rather evenly divided. Over half the respondents put a lower priority on adding more bars or nightclubs.

Among the ranked improvements, over 80 percent wanted to see improved building conditions. Over half wanted a priority placed on keeping streets and sidewalks cleared. About three quarters registered a general interest in seeing downtown lighting improved.

Over 80 percent said the sales tax rate in a particular part of town did not affect where they shopped. Pyle said the answer contradicts the notion that special taxes for improvements drive away customers. Nearly 60 percent said they would be willing to pay higher sales taxes to support Monett's downtown.

Over 70 percent said they supported the city offering incentives to help property owners revitalize the downtown. Pyle found this encouraging as a reflection of public support for the city's involvement in the Main Street effort.

Next steps

Many cities involved in the DREAM process have no organizations in place to shape a revitalization effort. Murray, with the urban planning firm of Peckham Guyton Albers and Viets (PGAV), said Monett has made significant strides with its Main Street program and its partnership with the Chamber of Commerce and the Monett Downtown Improvement group.

The goal of DREAM, Murray said, is not only to generate more traffic downtown but also to make the downtown an activities center for the community. The next step for DREAM will be to assemble notes and finalize a scope of services in the coming months.

Monett Main Street has reviewed a wayfinding signage plan. Pyle said the organization has several design options and is close to selecting locations.

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