Setting the stage for selling downtown Cape Girardeau

Monday, February 14, 2005
Tim Arbeiter is the new executive director of Old Town Cape.

By The new director of Old Town Cape has his sights set on recruiting more businesses to downtown Cape Girardeau.

Tim Arbeiter, 29, has been on the job for about two months. A soft-spoken optimist, Arbeiter thinks the downtown area is an increasingly attractive location both to businesses looking to locate in Cape Girardeau and to existing businesses.

"I think we have some great things waiting there," he said.

Arbeiter, a 1997 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in business administration, said the major building blocks are already in place or taking shape: The Marquette Towers, the soon-to-be-developed River Campus arts school and the new federal courthouse now under construction.

New computer software will allow the organization, housed at 111 Independence St., to catalog all of the buildings and property owners in the Old Town Cape district. The catalog will be useful in marketing vacant buildings to potential businesses, Arbeiter said.

In his view, the area of Cape Girardeau between the River Campus and Independence Street is ripe for development, particularly for faculty and student housing.

The proposed Spanish Court townhouse development on North Spanish Street will provide more high-end housing downtown, Arbeiter said, but he also hopes to help foster more mid-level housing development.

Some of the recruitment of businesses may be done through marketing, but most will occur on a one-to-one basis through building relationships all over town, Arbeiter said.

Part of his job, he says, is "being a cheerleader."

Arbeiter gave up a position as assistant director of operations of the University Center at Southeast Missouri State University to take the Old Town Cape job.

In doing so, he went from a large, well-funded institution to a small-budget organization with a bare-bones staff. The Old Town Cape office is manned by Arbeiter with part-time help from two Southeast students -- one of them a paid worker and the other an unpaid intern.

Raised in Cape Girardeau, Arbeiter was intrigued with Old Town's commitment to helping revitalize and develop a 130-block area of homes and businesses stretching from the Mississippi River to West End Boulevard and from North Street south to Shawnee Parkway.

"What a great way to make an impact on the community," he said. "There aren't a lot of jobs that can do that."

Part of his job, he said, is to encourage businesses to preserve the architecture of old storefronts. Old Town Cape makes available to merchants a booklet outlining design guidelines.

The organization depends largely on private funding and the efforts of volunteers.

The organization, founded in July 1999, isn't solely set up to serve the downtown area. But Arbeiter said much of its current focus has been in that neighborhood.

Old Town Cape wants Fountain Street extended from Morgan Oak Street to William Street. The organization wants the two-block extension to be a decorative boulevard with brick-like pavers, old-fashioned-style lights and three roundabouts.

"We are really pushing for the most enhanced entrance to the city that we can get," said Hoffman. That would mean a project that could cost about $1.3 million, according to engineer estimates.

The city's planning and zoning commission has proposed that the city budget $300,000 toward the project. Coupled with a $500,000 grant the city has been awarded, there would be enough money to build a 40-foot-wide, concrete street.

But Arbeiter is optimistic that state and federal grant money can be secured to build a more decorative street.

"That area is going to be primed and ready for development," he said.

335-6611, extension 123

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