New Life for Downtown Kennett

July 29, 2005 – Posted at 5:49 p.m. CDT

KENNETT, MO -- For many towns in Region 8, growth and industry are part of normal economic development.  When city limits expand, sometimes downtown areas are left by the wayside.
While one Southeast Missouri town is working on sprucing up it’s ailing downtown, some residents believe they should be starting elsewhere.
“All this started back with Sheryl Crow's donation, and it's just fantastic for the city of Kennett,” said Chamber of Commerce President Randy Morgan.
Downtown Kennett is getting a face-lift.
“It's been a real true community project. We have had a lot of meetings in the last three years with property owners and the city. Everybody has just jumped on board, so it's going to be great to see it accomplished,” said Chamber of Commerce Director Jan McElwrath.
Add together $150,000 in private donations, $400,000 secured in federal funds, plus $50,000 from MODOT and another $400,000 from a community development block grant, and suddenly Kennett's downtown has a lot of potential.
“This has great economic impact, it's not just about beautification,” said McElwrath.
The funds will be used to revitalize the courthouse, the Dunklin County museum, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and awning work around the square.
Work should start in downtown this September, and chamber officials hope it will be completed by next May, just in time when the Sheryl Crow Aquatics Center opens for next summer.  There are some folks here in Kennett say this isn't the part of town that needs to be cleaned up.
“I can't see redoing the city square when you've got places like this coming into town,” said Kennett resident Allan Mathes.
Mathes and his westside Kennett neighbor Marlin Blansett say officials should focus resources on eyesores at the perimeter of the city.
“Times and businesses have changed so much. People don't shop downtown anymore, around little small towns. They go out of town to Wal-Mart or big places,” said Blansett.
“There is nothing in the square anymore. Really, your mom and pop stores are gone. Why beautify the square, when you've got stuff like this in the surrounding area,” said Mathes. 
 Chamber officials say the revitalization effort is spreading.
“This will allow us to do a couple of blocks in each direction of the square proper,” said McElwrath.
“Hopefully, the end results of this is going to be the image of Kennett is going to be improved,” said Morgan.