Draft plan for Cape debuts

Friday, August 17, 2007

Reinventing Cape Girardeau may require opening up the cul-de-sac-heavy northern neighborhoods or building a baseball stadium on the city's south side.

Those are just two of the suggestions in the new draft of a comprehensive city plan so big it weighs as much at the latest Harry Potter book.

Parts of the city have "a really strong story to tell," said consultant Carol Gossett, a senior planner for Arcturis, the St. Louis-based design firm hired by the city to draft the 20-year plan.

In a brisk 30 minutes, Gossett summed up the company's advice to city leaders.

Cape Girardeau was analyzed by quadrants and by such topics as park and recreation, soil composition and land use. She flipped through slides showing zoning and land use, traffic patterns and facilities. The plan's suggestions include extending a levee to the south side while driving mixed-use development; creating a conservation-friendly district near what she called the "magnificent and historic" Cape Rock Park; and rehabilitating downtown buildings to support streets full of residents and businesses.

Main roads such as William Street and North Kingshighway, she said, could be targeted for revitalization and beautification. Nontraditional traffic, on trails and sidewalks, would get a boost under the plan, and the bus routes would be revamped.

Gossett's audience included members of the city council and the city's planning and zoning commission, a handful of city employees and fewer than a dozen residents.

Most members of the city council and the planning and zoning commission seemed overwhelmed by the size of the 300-page draft but hope the 20-year plan grabs residents' interest as much or more than J.K. Rowling's best seller.

Other plan suggestions:

* Redevelop the commercial district and beautify William Street.

* Add land to the airport.

* Bring new business to the city's south side and add a community center.

* Strengthen the trail system though the city, add green space.

* Plan for Southeast Missouri State University expansion.

Some funding for the long-term plans will come from state and federal government, Gossett said.

"Your partnerships have to include legislators," she said, "And landowners, business and other stakeholders."

The comprehensive plan is a guide for planning and zoning commission members. They want to hear from residents.

Bill Hinckley, a planning and zoning commissioner, compared having the draft comprehensive plan to "reading a book on how to swim. You don't really know how to do it until you get into the water."

He told those assembled to think of the draft as a way of looking as possibilities for the city, suggestions for planners. If planning and zoning board members adopt a final version of the plan, it can be adapted to meet the city's needs.

The planning and zoning commission will hold a public hearing on the comprehensive plan draft Oct. 10. The time and place will be announced later. In the meantime, city officials are hoping residents page through copies of the document, which will be available at city hall, the library, the offices of the chamber of commerce and Old Town Cape as well as online at www.cityofcapegirardeau.org, according to Heather Brooks, assistant to the city's manager, Doug Leslie. Brooks said the document won't be online for at least a week, but may be available on compact discs in the near future.

"We need to keep in mind this is a 20-year plan," Leslie said.


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The best and worst of Cape

Nearly 400 Cape Girardeau residents responded to a community survey by the design firm Arcturis. The questions were designed as part of the research used in developing a draft of a comprehensive plan for the city. The consultants received 368 complete responses and 34 partial responses to their questions. Here's what residents said they liked the most and the least about living in Cape Girardeau.

Liked most

* Heritage of the city

* Mississippi River

* Location between major cities, St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn.

* Big-city atmosphere with small-town feel

* Good, friendly people

* Great place to raise family

* Good neighborhoods

* Moderate cost of living

* Community support and values

* University

* Safety

* Conventient places to shop

Liked least

* Resistance to change

* Lack of leadership

* Growing beyond its needs

* Losing green space/land/wildlife to development

* Affordable housing

* Lack of sidewalks and messy streets in most areas of the city

* Empty buildings downtown

* Property maintenance

* Run-down neighborhoods

* Criminals in some areas

* Lack of entertainment except restaurants

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