Seymour’s “small-town charm” is its selling point.
That’s the message given last Thursday night to the Seymour Board of Aldermen as students from Missouri State University (MSU) in Springfield gave a 30-minute Zoom presentation to city officials on downtown revitalization.
Leading the presentation was Dr. Krista Evans, a professor in the planning department at MSU, who was assisted in the video project by students Kortney Bliss, Bryce McLean and Ryan Wischmann.
Over the past four months, MSU students under Evans’ leadership have worked in Seymour, compiling information about the city’s downtown and its square, ultimately resulting in a 121-page report, titled “Seeds For Downtown Success.”
As part of the students’ vision statement, an action plan was suggested for Seymour, focusing on three main points:
1. Restore and preserve buildings on the square.
2. Improve the look and cleanliness on the square.
3. Reinstate facilities on the square.
McLean opened the presentation, outlining the project’s broad focus, then was followed by Wischmann, who outlined goals the city should set for restoring its downtown.
Wischmann suggested finding financing options for fixing buildings on the square, as well as providing financing options and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
“The city needs to develop a database of vacant business properties,” he added. “In conjunction with this, downtown Seymour needs to be promoted as a place to do business.”
A variety of recreational activities were suggested.
Wischmann noted the success of the annual Seymour Apple Festival, which he described as “one of the best small-town celebrations” in the state.
“We feel small-scale events would work on the square,” he said. “These are periodic activities that foster a sense of community.”
Examples include a promotion called “Saturday Square,” where once a month, downtown businesses would extend their business hours into the event.
“Another example would be a car show,” Wischmann said.
“These are examples of low-budget events that can draw a good crowd to the downtown.”
Tourism was the next topic.
On that front, Wischmann said Seymour is “really missing out on a great draw” with the Southern Missouri Off-Road Ranch, located five miles south of the city limits on Highway K.
“This is the largest 4-by-4 park in the nation,” he said.
“Seymour should find ways to get this crowd, numbering in the thousands each weekend, to visit its square and its shops. To reach the ranch, traffic has to come through Seymour, right by the square.
“Those people need to have a reason to stay and shop here. It’s really a missed opportunity.”
Wischmann added that Seymour’s Old Order Amish community is a drawing card for visitors.
“We feel you need to push that connection,” he explained.
“One city to emulate is Kalona, Iowa. That city resembles Seymour in many ways. They draw thousands of visitors to visit their Amish residents.”
To that end, Wischmann said the city should focus on the Amish community’s craftsmanship and various skills.
Finally, he suggested Seymour continued growing its presence on social media.
Bliss then took over, beginning her presentation by talking about landscaping options in the city’s downtown.
Her suggestions at the square’s center included:
1. Infill unused spaces for the erection of flower beds.
2. Build beds for the planting of flowers.
3. Maintain the existing trees in the square’s park and also plant saplings for future replacement.
4. Install urban furniture and an all-ages playground in the downtown park.
Bliss also made lighting suggestions.
“Improved lighting, we believe, will increase usage in the Seymour Downtown Park at the center of the square,” she said. “We suggest improving the city’s downtown sidewalk network and also installing more downtown lighting.”
She added that two ideas for city leaders to consider are engraved bricks on the square and decorative street lights with banners.
The final suggestion made by Bliss centered on mixed-use zoning. Specifically, she suggested that the city enact guidelines to allow residential housing on the square.
“As part of that, the city must create and enforce housing codes,” she concluded.
The 121-page Seeds For Downtown Success is available to the public at Seymour City Hall. Copies will be given to city residents upon request.