Downtown Washington, Missouri

2012 Great American Main Sreeet Award

Washington, Missouri

Award Type: GAMSA

The Numbers Over 22 Years

  • Main Street began: 1989
  • Population: 13,939
  • Net new jobs: 383
  • Net new businesses: 56
  • Building rehabs: 40
  • New buildings: 7
  • Vacancy rate when Main Street began: 15%
  • Vacancy rate now: 20%
  • Public investment: $27,450,000
  • Private investment: $47,100,000

Read the press release

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In Their Own Words

Washington has always been a proactive community, with no project being too big.  This has been proven by the multiple projects championed not only by Downtown Washington, Inc., but the entire Washington community.  Whether it is a new bridge or an all-abilities park, the community is there with a helping hand and an open checkbook.    
The organization’s first project, in 1989, involved purchasing and renovating Washington’s oldest standing structure, first built in 1834.  Known as the Log Cabin, the building housed Downtown Washington, Inc.’s offices until 2010, when offices were moved to the Old Main Post Office.  A future project will be to update the building so it can be used for an “Artist in Residence” program.   

Downtown Washington, Inc.’s second project was renovating the Outdoor Civic Center.  Construction of the façade and street level of the building was completed in 2007.  Currently, the second and third floors of the building are being renovated into apartments, with a completion date of October 2011.   

Not only did Downtown Washington, Inc. take on the financial responsibilities of renovating the Old Main Post Office, but the organization also has ownership of a small business, the Contract Postal Unit, which is responsible for day-to-day postal operations in the downtown district.  A hands-on organization, the staff and board spent many nights throughout the renovation stripping paint, cleaning, painting and more to help control costs.  Keeping postal operations downtown helps the organization continue serving the estimated 100,000 people who use the downtown location each year.

They're Not Done Yet

Q: What are your district’s strategic initiatives for the next five years?

A: Downtown Washington, Inc. plans to actively continue its preservation and revitalization efforts.  This will be done by continuing to use the Four Point Approach in everyday operations.    A Community Improvement District has been on Downtown Washington, Inc.’s wish list for several years.  Within the next five years a forum will be scheduled to better educate downtown business and property owners about the process of a CID, hopefully with immediate approval.  Downtown Washington, Inc. would then use the CID funds to host more business development seminars, introduce more funding opportunities like the Sign and Awning Grant, recruit new businesses, and add way-finding kiosks to the downtown district.  These funds would also allow the organization to continue renovating “at risk” properties and aiding the City in streetscape improvements.   

Because of Downtown Washington, Inc.’s multiple arts-related events, the organization hopes to designate downtown as a Fine Arts District and form an Arts Council.  Creating these two arts entities will not only help to further establish Washington as an art community, but will open the door for more arts-related grants. 

The Calvin Opera House is a prominent structure on historic downtown Elm Street.  Built in 1909, the theatre includes one screen, a stage and 900 seats.  Activities held at the Calvin once included movies, concerts, dance recitals and more.  Currently, the building is privately owned and falling into disrepair.  Downtown Washington, Inc. hopes to purchase the theatre from its current owners and restore the building to its original look and purpose.