Cape Girardeau to apply for Blunt's DREAM

Monday, June 26, 2006

Cape Girardeau plans to be one of the first cities to apply for status as a DREAM community.

But for smaller towns, gaining access to the program may be more dream than reality for now.

Gov. Matt Blunt unveiled the DREAM -- Downtown Revitalization Economic Assistance for Missouri -- Initiative Tuesday at several stops across the state, including Cape Girardeau. The governor touts the new program as a way for small-town Missouri to get the kind of comprehensive downtown development and funding available to larger urban areas like Kansas City and St. Louis.

Cape Girardeau, which Blunt used to illustrate the benefits of downtown revitalization, has already undergone extensive efforts to improve its historic downtown. Among those efforts are the Marquette, which received $6 million in tax credits for renovation.

Old Town Cape, the not-for-profit group with the mission of improving downtown through attracting business and visitors, reports that downtown had received $7.16 million in public and private reinvestment from 2005 through Feb. 1, 2006.

Mayor Jay Knudtson said downtown revitalization isn't complete, though, and Cape Girardeau is eager to use DREAM services to continue progress.

"I think Cape Girardeau will be able to serve as a community that can best utilize these new resources," Knudtson said Friday. Knudtson said he immediately instructed his staff to start looking closely at DREAM application requirements so they could apply quickly and in the correct fashion.

"I believe in my heart ... that Cape Girardeau is a poster child for what this initiative represents," Knudtson said.

DREAM will provide planning assistance and financial assistance to six to 10 communities in the state for a period of three years. The plan also consolidates development assistance under one umbrella organization, instead of being spread among the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Missouri Development Finance Board and the Missouri Housing Development Commission. Applications are due Aug. 1.

Blunt's office touts the effectiveness of downtown revitalization, using projects in Columbia, Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and Kansas City as examples.

Knudtson said Cape Girardeau has a great chance of receiving DREAM status because it already has a comprehensive downtown development in place.

But Blunt spokesperson Jessica Robinson said the initiative also seeks to help even smaller towns that don't have the resources to make a comprehensive, detailed plan and carry it through.

Robinson said many small towns throughout the state simply lack the resources to have personnel devoted to planning and getting grant funding. Larger towns like Cape Girardeau already have that support, but many towns in Southeast Missouri don't.

Chaffee Mayor Bill Cannon said he's looking at DREAM with cautious optimism. While his thinks his city could benefit from downtown revitalization help, he said Chaffee may adopt a wait-and-see attitude unless the city council directs action on applying for DREAM.

DREAM was unveiled Tuesday, and with a little more than a month to go before the application deadline some small-town leaders say they only know as much about the program as they've read or heard in media reports.

That could be a problem when the application process asks for a comprehensive approach to downtown revitalization, and small towns already don't have the personnel to concentrate their full attention on that sort of planning.

Scott City Mayor Tim Porch said the city government knows little about the program so far. But the city has taken efforts over the past few years with the help of private interests to develop its Old Illmo section.

Porch said those same people may be enlisted to help Scott City seek DREAM status.

"We'll just have to hurry," Porch said.

Jackson is also unsure whether it will apply for DREAM.

In Jackson, revitalization efforts are already underway, as well. Earlier this year the city's uptown area was awarded historic district status.

Jackson is currently seeking $400,000 in grant funding to enhance its historic uptown district.

"Exactly how the DREAM Initiative will tie into that, I guess we will look into that, and if there are benefits that go along with it, we will take advantage of them if possible," said Jackson Mayor Paul Sander.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: