Damaged marquee at old Cape Girardeau theater coming down

Friday, January 4, 2008
Workers Thursday began removing the damaged marquee in front of the old Esquire Theater on Broadway in Cape Girardeau. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com)

The marquee of the historic Esquire Theater on Broadway in Cape Girardeau is being dismantled.

Workers were on the job Thursday afternoon, removing the collision-damaged and time-worn marquee. The sidewalk under the marquee has been barricaded by owner Phil Brinson since early October, when a tractor-trailer turning out of an adjacent alley struck the overhanging structure.

After the soffit of the marquee came down during a windstorm, Cape Girardeau police added additional barricades to prevent parking in front of the long-unused theater.

City officials have been pressing Brinson, who also owns Buckner Brewing Co., to deal with the sign's damage for many weeks, said Tim Morgan, head of the city's inspections department."The time period stretched out," Morgan said Thursday afternoon. "The council was asking when the sidewalk would be back open, and we came to an understanding about getting something done in a relatively short period of time."

The theater at 824 Broadway opened in 1947, closed in the 1980s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Brinson did not return messages left on his mobile telephone Thursday.

"We have been concerned about getting the sidewalk opened back to the public," said Ken Eftink, director of development services for the city.

Neither the dismantling work nor the proposed reconstruction of the marquee will require a building permit, Eftink said. Employees of the city's Public Works Department have assisted in evaluating the structural strength of the marquee, he said.

There were no formal inspections and no written notice to Brinson that action was needed, Morgan said. During discussions, Brinson expressed concerns over whether he would be allowed to replace the marquee after making repairs, Morgan said.

"We assured him he could put it back after he took it down," Morgan said. "He would not run into any problems with us. Our goal is to get the dangerous part of it off where the wind won't catch some of it again, to get it removed so the sidewalk can be opened back up."

The city has the authority to issue directives to building owners of needed repairs and setting time limits for completion. "That would have been the next action," Morgan said. "I tried to do it all verbally, and I felt he was doing what he told us he would do."

But action was needed because council members were pushing the city staff to act, Morgan said.

The only permit Brinson will need will be related to the city's sign ordinances, he said, and that requirement will be minimal compared to the process of obtaining a building permit.

Removal of the marquee should be finished this week, Morgan said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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