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As the Christmas countdown begins, Josephine magazine takes a look at shopping local this season, gifts for everyone on your list and post office tips to get your presents sent to arrive on time.
Business in Downtown St. Joseph is up, as the Downtown Community Improvement District’s increased revenue for the first quarter of the fiscal year shows.
Growth of businesses and patronage in Downtown shows the overall economy is doing well, according to CEO and president of the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce R. Patt Lilly.
“I think the situation Downtown is very positive,” Lilly said. “It’s a good example of how the rising tide lifts all boats. Downtown has been making a comeback over the last five years.”
Investments made by Mosaic Life Care when the company restored and moved some of its employees to the German American Building at 624 Felix St. and the construction of a new parking garage with support from the city of St. Joseph helped
“Those kinds of investments send the very important message to business, generally, and that is there is a sense of opportunity, there’s a basis for investment Downtown,” Lilly said.
Brian Myers owns three businesses in Downtown along with his wife, Amy Heath. They opened their first business, the vintage store The Lucky Tiger, in 2012. The book bar The Tiger’s Den followed in 2015, and earlier this year, the couple took over the former Paradox Theatre and reopened the event venue as The Metropolitan.
“There’s definitely a lot more foot traffic now than what there was in 2012,” Myers said. “It’s definitely generated a lot more people from within and from outside our community that are coming in and giving patronage to the businesses that are open.”
Several businesses have opened, found new owners or moved to Downtown from other part of St. Joseph in the last year. Eclipz Popcorn opened on the Belt Highway at the end of 2018 but moved to Downtown in summer 2019.
“The more I came around here, the more I started to network, the more I got to actually see how Downtown is doing, my excitement just continued to grow,” owner Dillon Cox told News-Press NOW shortly before the business reopened. “I couldn’t wait to get down here and be a part of the Downtown network.”
Lilly thinks part of Downtown’s appeal is unique experiences and a variety of events.
“I think people like that, I think particularly millennials and younger people. They’re not looking for the same old thing,” he said. “When you go Downtown, it’s an experience. It’s something different. And it’s something that creates a memory.”
Most businesses in Downtown are locally owned, something that makes a difference for many shoppers, according to Myers.
“There’s a lot of folks out there that give a preference to shopping local,” he said. “There are other places in the community where you can do the same thing but there’s a community unlike any other, business-wise ,in our Downtown, and I think the community’s been extremely receptive and very supportive of it.”
Those in the St. Joseph School District’s long-range planning committee invited a few new members to their meeting Tuesday afternoon to discuss high-school facilities plans as well as early learning opportunities.
Community members and representatives from various businesses across St. Joseph, including Herzog and LifeLine, gave their opinions and listened in on some of the district’s future goals.
“That’s part of the aim of the board is we have been trying to improve communication for a number of years now,” school board member Dr. Bryan Green said. “One facet of that is to include community members as basically kind of an advisory board.”
In the past, Superintendent Dr. Doug Van Zyl has talked of forming partnerships with various organizations in order to properly provide early learning opportunities to children in the area. During Tuesday’s committee meeting, he said those efforts are still in fairly early phases, though discussions are being had. He went on to say that he hopes to have these opportunities for children up and running by fall of next year.
“We recognize that there are some parents in the community that would like for their children to have a preschool experience but just don’t have that access,” Green said. “And that’s what we’re hoping to do is be able to provide that access and really an excellent level of service to be able to provide those services. We recognize that there are a lot of kids that enter kindergarten who are not quite ready yet for kindergarten, and this is an opportunity to kind of help bring them up to speed both with some of the academics that are required in kindergarten as well as the social skills.”
The Master Facilities Plan also was discussed during Tuesday’s meeting.
Currently, architecture company DLR is reviewing information and feedback received from a number of focus group and community sessions held over the past few months. Van Zyl said he hopes to receive more information from them toward the end of this week, hopefully whittling down the five high-school-facility concepts to around two. The Board of Education can then choose to support one of those options toward the end of the year.
Prior to those discussions, the district welcomed Yellow Frog Graphics to the room to discuss potential rebranding options going forward. The business, which has worked with schools in the district in the past, offered a rough draft of what they thought might complement the district’s mission as part of its strategic plan.
“I think it’s a relatively small part (of the strategic planning process), but an important part,” Green said. “So we are basically a new district. We’ve got new personnel, we are looking at facilities planning, and so we are stepping forward and looking at the future. This is just a small part of that.”
An initiative dubbed Grow Your Own was the final item discussed Tuesday afternoon, and focuses on incentivizing education as a career to schoolchildren and adults who may be interested.
Van Zyl said he’s heard some schools reaching out to eighth-grade students to participate in summer-school activities by paying them to monitor the playground or cafeteria during that time. Scholarships and other programs can incentivize these students, and Van Zyl said he’s continuing to meet with the administration at Missouri Western State University to further these efforts.
The Buchanan County Capital Improvement sales tax will continue for another eight years after more than 70 percent of voters checked “yes” on the ballot Tuesday.
Election results show that 71.21 percent of those who voted were in support of the continuation of the one-quarter-cent tax, which is used for capital projects around the county, including bridge, roads and facilities improvements.
According to county data, only 9.3 percent of registered voters partook in the election. The Frederick Boulevard Baptist Church precinct was the only one out of 26 that saw 10 percent or higher turnout.
Buchanan County Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer said the County Commission is happy that those who did vote were in support of the tax.
“We feel like the county’s been good stewards of that money in the past. So, to have the voters come out and overwhelmingly approve another eight years, we appreciate that very much,” Sawyer said.
The tax brings in between $3.5 million and $3.8 million every year with some of the funds earmarked for the county’s portion of of river levee improvements.
A $1 million portion of the revenue is held aside every year for economic development.
Sawyer said the money provides loans for businesses with a condition that they create a certain number of new jobs in Buchanan County.
“We will do things like forgivable loans for companies who are expanding or are trying to come to St. Joseph and we usually tie that with increasing jobs,” Sawyer said.
Upcoming projects that will use the money include three bridge repairs in southeast Buchanan County as part of a project that will be mostly funded by federal money. Improvements at the Buchanan County Law Enforcement Center also are expected to be done in this eight-year cycle.