The Rolla community has been recognized on many occasions for our high quality of life, the Mark Twain National Forest, outstanding park system and facilities, diversified economic base, outstanding schools, and of course the Missouri University of Science and Technology – one of the premier technological research universities in the country.
Not long ago (Sept. 9, 2009), the City of Rolla had the privilege of being host for the second year running for the Tour of Missouri international elite pro cycling event, which has brought international exposure to both the Rolla community and the Missouri University of Science and Technology, which played an integral role in helping to host the Stage 3 Finish this year on the campus in front of the Castleman Hall Performing Arts Center.
So it was another tremendous honor and welcomed news this week when the Missouri Department of Economic Development announced that Rolla has been selected to participate in the 2009 DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri) Initiative. The City of Rolla is one of five Missouri communities who were selected for the DREAM Initiative, which is a program designated to help communities to more efficiently and effectively engage in downtown redevelopment and revitalization efforts. If you haven’t seen some of the revitalization efforts that have already taken place along Pine Street, and recently along 6th Street where the new Benton Square development is taking place, I urge you to take the time to see these new developments. The timing of this new designation by the Department of Economic Development couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the City, Rolla Downtown Business Association, and the many businesses, merchants and restaurants located in the City’s downtown district.
DED Interim Director Katie Steele Danner announced in a recent news release that “Awarding DREAM Initiative status to these communities is evidence of DED’s continued commitment to working with communities to create new opportunities that will transform our state’s economy for the future.” Of course in Rolla we will look forward to how these opportunities will help transform our City’s economy for the future.
Mrs. Danner also emphasizes that another benefit of being selected as a DREAM Community is that Rolla will become an active member of the DREAM Initiative for three-years and will gain prioritized access to state supported programs through ongoing cooperation among several unique agencies and funding sources. These programs include technical and financial assistance for infrastructure improvements, historic preservation, affordable housing, community services, business development and job creation.
Some of the initiatives Rolla City officials will use the DREAM designation for include the following: Address the three primary downtown entrances, particularly the north entrance to the downtown area on Pine Street; obtain a better mix of retail, including those attractive to students; improve/increase downtown nighttime activities; increase downtown marketing efforts; address downtown parking issues; improve traffic flow; strengthen the Rolla Downtown Business Association and address street lighting problems.
Other communities throughout the state of Missouri who were named DREAM communities include: Aurora, Boonville, Cape Girardeau, Caruthersville, Chillicothe, Clinton, Excelsior Springs, Farmington, Fulton, Hannibal, Hermann, Kennett, Kirksville, Lamar, Lebanon, Louisiana, Macon, Maryville, Mexico, Neosho, Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, St. Joseph, Sedalia, Strafford, Trenton, Warrensburg, Washington, Webb City, and West Plains. Together, these cities received more than $168 million in state financial assistance to rebuild, revitalize and rejuvenate their downtowns.
A special thanks goes to everyone who was involved in completing and submitting the City’s DREAM Community application, including the City’s Community Development Director, John Petersen and his staff; the Rolla Downtown Business Association; the Meramec Regional Planning Commission, Rolla Regional Economic Commission and other members of the community who provided input, and feedback during the application process.