City aims to restore downtown

Although plans for the Kirksville Downtown Revitalization Pilot Project are not finalized or approved, city officials hope the program will lead to continued economic growth.

Missouri had the highest growth in new businesses during 2013, according to a press release from the office of Gov. Jay Nixon. In the midst of this economic boom, the City of Kirksville is working to refresh the appearance of the downtown area. So far, improvements have only come in the form of public infrastructure such as sidewalks and pedestrian lighting, but funds soon will be applied toward rehabilitating, renovating and restoring the facades of downtown buildings, curbs and parking.

Assistant City Manager Ashley Young says the city currently is drafting the Downtown Revitalization Pilot Project through the Tax Increment Finance Commission for the downtown Kirksville Tax Increment Financing district. Young says the downtown area and the shopping area with Sears and J.C. Penney, located along U.S. Highway 63, are the city’s two TIF districts. He says the tentative pilot program would cover the south side of The Square on Washington Street between Franklin and Elson streets and on Elson Street between Washington and McPherson streets.

IMG_2622 (1)Young says a TIF district establishes a base year, and from that year forward it receives a percentage of any increase in sales or property tax for use within the district. He says in the case of Kirksville’s downtown TIF district, the base year was 1999.

Young says the draft program for the policy calls for TIF funds to pay for 75 percent of the improvements to the property itself, and a buy-in from property owners would cover the remaining 25 percent. He says TIF funds would cover 100 percent of the cost of sidewalks, lighting and parking.

Young says when forming a TIF district, a developer must be identified. For the downtown TIF district, he says the City of Kirksville would be the developer, so the management of the project would be handled by the city. He says property owners on The Square likely will be able to give significant input about the appearance of their buildings.

“Of course, we want to stick to the Kirksville downtown design guidelines as much as possible, just in the interest of creating that kind of historic downtown atmosphere that everybody appreciates,” Young says. “But at the end of the day, property owners own their property, and they’ll dictate the colors of things, the kind of awnings that they’ll have, the kind of windows, all those options.”

Young says he hopes the program will improve the quality of the heart of the city, and ultimately be successful enough to allow an extension of the program to the rest of The Square and the downtown area. He says the city consistently receives feedback from the Truman State administration, property owners and Kirksville citizens about the need to renovate the downtown area to move the economy forward.

Young says from this point, the city hopes to go back to the TIF Commission before the end of the month and hear its recommendation to the City Council to approve this draft of the program. Young says the draft then would be tentatively reviewed during December, and if it is approved, he says work could start as early as spring.

Young says the Downtown Revitalization Pilot Project will be the largest project in significance and scope the TIF Commission will undertake within the downtown area if it is fully implemented. Young says  he thinks if this is the case, entrepreneurs would be more likely to open businesses in a more attractive downtown area. He says an increase in traffic and momentum ultimately will provide the city economy with a marked improvement.

“You have to have a justification for doing this, and while aesthetics and beautification and tourism are absolutely admirable and do help the economy to a certain degree in their own way, that’s not enough.You also need to have very demonstrable results, which in this case would be more businesses opening in the downtown.”

               – Ashley Young, Assistant City Manager of Kirksville

To read more from the director of economic development at Kirksville Regional Economic Development, Inc continue reading on Issuu.