Vote disbands Downtown Partnership in St. Joseph

An organization that's aided in reviving St. Joseph's downtown district for the past 21 years will soon be saying goodbye.

Posted: Aug 19, 2019 5:05 PM
Updated: Aug 19, 2019 7:05 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  An organization that's aided in reviving St. Joseph's downtown district for the past 21 years will soon be saying goodbye. 

The Downtown Partnership voted to disband following a meeting on Thursday. Rhabecca Boerkircher, executive director of the Downtown Partnership, said the decision came after City Council cut the Partnership's funding by $18,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. 

"The council did give us a major reduction in funding this year and that was a deciding factor because, after the first of the year, we just didn't have the funds to continue," Boerkircher said. 

She added that all of the downtown groups (Downtown Community Improvement, Downtown Association, Downtown Firsts, Downtown Review Board, and Downtown Partnership) were discussing ways of becoming more unified, but that it ultimately didn't work out.

"I think [the groups] were all going to try and come in under the Partnership, and just restructure the Partnership into becoming a membership organization," Boerkircher said. "There are so many groups downtown, so they decided that they would try and bring everybody together under one umbrella."

However, downtown business owner Brian Myers, owner of The Tiger's Den, said he believes the vote was the right decision.

"All these successes that all of the businesses have had in our downtown were done without the Partnership. So, the Partnership dissolving, I think it means we're moving in the right direction," Myers said. 

The Downtown Partnership was formed 21 years ago as a sort of 'guide' to the Downtown area. Since then, Boerkircher said the agency developed into a group whose mission was to revitalize the neighborhood. 

"I cannot go anywhere without people coming up to me unsolicited, and say 'downtown's looking good. You guys are doing a great job. You know, things are really good downtown right now,'" Boerkircher said. 

Though Myers said he disagrees, stating he feels the Partnership was formed to hire an executive director, but that the position hasn't had any sort of direction over the past few years.

"I don't think the Downtown Partnership, from its inception, had goals and directions that were able to be followed," Myers said.

Through the years, Boerkircher said the Downtown Partnership has been involved in getting more housing in the downtown area, making the neighborhood more pedestrian-friendly, putting in historic street lamps, forming the Sculpture Walk and getting the murals painted. 

"There's just been a tremendous amount of progress that we've made downtown," Boerkircher said. "Actually, to tell you the truth, it's been in a short amount of time. If you go to other communities and talk about their downtown, it's taken them a lot longer to get to the point that we're at."

When asked how the Partnership's responsibilities would be handled in the future, Boerkircher said it's a little too early to tell. 

"Well, you know, this just happened. All of the groups I'm sure are going to get together and talk about how they're going to handle their individual needs moving forward," Boerkircher said. 

KQ2 reached out the other groups downtown but they declined interviews. Cris Coffman with Downtown Firsts issued a statement saying only that the board members are looking forward to what the future brings for the downtown neighborhood. 

Boerkircher said the vote to disband the group goes into effect on October 1st. 

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