Downtown areas in small and medium-sized towns that dot the midwest have been hard hit the past 10 to 15 with the rise of e-commerce. In 2008, downtown Joplin had a 75% vacancy rate.
It was also the year that the Downtown Joplin Alliance launched their Third Thursday street festival. The DJA has worked to lower that vacancy rate, holding it between 7 and 10 percent over the past five years.
The non-profit and its Executive Director Lori Haun were recognized last week by the Missouri Main Street Connection with an award for Outstanding Development Project for the Willard Hotel. She says that an investment in one project has a domino effect.
“By investing that in that building, there’s residence upstairs and commercial downstairs, but investing in that block it’s developed a lot of other things that are happening in that area, that nothing had happened in decades.”
Lori and her husband Jeremy have a personal stake in the Willard as the property’s owners. She says that one of the major projects now for the Alliance is finding a buyer and to develop Joplin’s Train Depot, which has been vacant for about 30 years.