Residents discuss their ideas for improving Cape Girardeau

Thursday, January 25, 2007

For Cape Girardeau residents the future should mean new stores, restaurants and a bigger, more modern city.

At a town planning workshop staged by the outside consulting firm Arcturis, 54 residents came armed with their best ideas for a new and improved hometown. The event at the Osage Community Centre was part of a yearlong process to revise the city's comprehensive plan.

The topics Wednesday ranged from attracting new stores and improving public transportation to annexation and maintaining green space.

At several of the eight tables, residents said they greatly appreciate some of the family-owned restaurants downtown and wish there were more.

"I wish they could attract more nonchain restaurants with a local flavor," said Elena Perryman, who has lived in Cape Girardeau for 17 years. "More family-oriented places and get rid of some of the bars, maybe. Because when you go down there on weekends with young children it becomes difficult."

Paul Giebler, a 35-year Cape Girardeau resident, suggested an improved corridor to downtown would do a lot to attract business, both restaurants and otherwise.

"When you come down from the university, what is there to attract these businesses? Nothing. Not on Broadway," he said.

Giebler believes the city needs to have a long-range plan for the storefronts lining Broadway many of which he believes look "junky."

Others voiced the opinion that lack of parking frustrates potential downtown diners and shoppers.

Pat Patterson, a 29-year resident, suggested moving the Convention and Visitors Bureau into a historic building so the CVB's current building could be torn down and turned into parking. Patterson also suggested the idea of downtown employing a shuttle service to and from parking lots. He imagined one similar to the golf cart that operates at McAlister's Deli or the shuttle at Southeast Missouri Hospital.

Others believe the key to development means attracting more stores.

Suggestions of possible tenants to fill a retail void included Pottery Barn, Bed Bath and Beyond, Whole Foods, the high-end supermarket Trader Joe's and outdoor apparel store REI.

But some cautioned that no matter what stores come to town, people will always want others.

"We don't have the variety of stores they have in St. Louis, but that's always going to be the case," said Eric Bohl, who has lived in Cape Girardeau for six months. "We should just try to be as good at being what we are as we can be, which is a regional center, not a national city."

For others, progress means annexation. Some don't care which direction the city grows, they're in favor of it.

"Anything above water that's not inside the city limits of Scott City or Jackson, I say go for it," said 15-year resident Bo Shantz.

The consensus indicated growth would be concentrated north of current city limits. This moved some people to push for caution.

"If we're going to annex north, we've got to talk to our legislators about redoing the school districts," said Eric Marquart, who has lived in town for 26 years. Marquart pointed out that much of the proposed land is currently in the Jackson School District, meaning future Cape Girardeau residents could benefit from city services but pay a large amount of property tax to Jackson schools.

Other discussions included the need for a water park like the ones in Poplar Bluff, Farmington and Perryville, a need for bus or train service to St. Louis and Memphis and the need for a recreation center on the south side of town similar to the Osage Community Centre.

335-6611, extension 245

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