Southern takes over downtown Joplin


Aaron Weatherford | The Chart

Missouri Southern took over Third Thursday on Sept. 17. Departments from all across Southern set up booths and tables to interact with community members.

If last Thursday was any indication, Downtown Joplin Alliance’s mission to revitalize the downtown area is a success.

The group hosted the September edition of Third Thursday Sept. 17, and the event featured several blocks of green and gold as the Lions took to the streets with activities and informational booths.

“A little over three years ago, the vacancy rate downtown was about 75 percent,” said Callie Hudson, executive director of Downtown Joplin Alliance. “Initially, the goal was to fill vacant storefronts and ensure downtown didn’t become obsolete.”

In this effort to revitalize Joplin, the main goal is to bring people downtown.

The theory is that people who enjoy their time downtown will then return with friends or family.

Hudson also said historic preservation is a major goal for the alliance. She said the city needs to remember where it came from.

“If downtown is thriving, typically the rest of the city is as well,” she said.

Downtown Joplin Alliance also advocates for “stakeholders.”

Members hope to eliminate any impediments to success in the downtown area. Hudson shared one such impediment among business owners in the downtown area.

“This year, one thing we heard about a lot was parking,” Hudson said. “There is not a lot of permit-free parking downtown. We started working with city staff to address this.”

A recommendation to alleviate the parking issues will go before the city council soon.

“One business in particular pays almost $2,400 per year for parking for its employees,” Hudson said. “Through this measure, we hope to alleviate this bill for that business, because $2,400 is a hit.”

Third Thursday is sponsored each month by different organizations in the Joplin area.

Southern was the sponsor for September.

“Your involvement in Third Thursday is only limited by your imagination,” Hudson said. “And Missouri Southern took that quite literally.”

Missouri Southern’s University Relations and Marketing division responded to the invitation by saying they were essentially bringing the whole school—and they did.

“Missouri Southern killed it,” Hudson added.

URM passed out free coloring books featuring Southern’s mascot Roary.

Attendance to Third Thursday is generally weather related.

For example, in March this year, it was very cold; people still showed up, but not as many.

The September Third Thursday event was the most attended of the year.

Downtown Joplin Alliance receives feedback from business along Main Street in response to Third Thursday.

“The retail and restaurant business benefit. Businesses report an increase of 40-200 percent in sales on Third Thursday,” Hudson said.

An addition to the dining scene this year included food trucks.

Hudson said restaurants along Main Street were consulted before food trucks were invited in, and owners overwhelmingly said yes because of the high demand on Third Thursday.

Third Thursday takes place each month from March to October.