The City of Plattsburg is the county seat of Clinton County and was incorporated in 1833, making it one the oldest communities in northwestern Missouri. Until the 1970s Plattsburg was largely a stand-alone community, serving as the economic center for the region’s agricultural enterprises. One reason for this success was the city’s central business district, which contributed to Plattsburg’s prominence as a regional economic and governmental hub.
Until the 1970s, the downtown maintained a healthy mix of active governmental, professional and retail uses. This included the Clinton County Courthouse, Plattsburg City Hall, a variety of retail stores and professional offices, as well as a movie theatre and skating rink. Additionally, the downtown area included two automobile dealerships, two farm equipment dealers, one bank and three gas stations/repair shops.
Like many small rural communities, from the early 1970s through the mid to late 1990s, the downtown area suffered significant downturns. By 1995, over half the buildings downtown were empty and, in some cases, abandoned and falling down. During this time, the downtown lost virtually all retail, manufacturing, sales and auto/equipment dealers. Activity in the downtown was largely limited to governmental and a few remaining retail and professional businesses.
Beginning in the early to mid 1990s the City, the community, local business owners and Mo-Kan Regional Council worked to revive the downtown. In the mid 1990s the City started a “from the ground up” infrastructure improvement program beginning with buried utilities such as water lines, gas lines, sanitary sewers and storm drains. At the same time, a new generation of business owners saw the opportunity to create a unique specialty shopping destination with a relatively low cost of initial building purchase prices. This effort included the formation of several community based non-profit groups that helped restore several downtown buildings. The most successful community collaboration was able to raise $750,000 to restore the Community Courtyard Building, which is a large community-owned building used for public functions. These renovation efforts have created the downtown as it currently exists. Furthermore, these endeavors have laid the foundation for the most recent revitalization activities in the downtown business district.
These major improvements in the downtown over the past 10 years have been the result of a $2.8 million dollar public and private investment in the past six years. Consequently, the area has slowly undergone a renaissance that reduced the vacancy rate from over 50 percent in the early 1990s to a current rate of approximately 9.6 percent. The remaining five vacant buildings have some form of renovation planned or completed.
Despite the many improvements, the City’s downtown struggled with aesthetics and functionality issues. Primarily, streets and sidewalks were in disrepair, utility lines draped across intersections, sidewalks were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and there was a noticeable lack of green space.
In 2005, the City approached Mo-Kan Regional Council to assist them with a major project to continue improving public infrastructure in the downtown area. The $1.5 million project included over $1 million of private funds, $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and $75,000 from the City of Plattsburg. The project entailed upgrading the streets and sidewalk, adding period street lighting and park benches, rebuilding and upgrading underground utilities (water mains, gas lines and sanitary sewers), and completing surface ADA accessibility. Additionally, a pocket park was constructed to memorialize “President for a Day” David Rice Atchison, who called Plattsburg home.
The downtown was officially “re-opened” in 2006 with a renovated appearance, that not only retained its historic “daytime shopping destination” and unique small town shopping experience, but also presented an attractive and clean, traditional downtown appearance.
Recently, the City has used Mo-Kan’s services to continue improving their community. In 2009, Mo-Kan completed a long-term Citywide Comprehensive Plan for the community. And in 2010, Mo-Kan helped the City secure a $350,000 CDBG to improve Birch Avenue, a historically significant street in the community. Furthermore, Mo-Kan’s revolving loan fund has helped a number of Plattsburg businesses get started.