Leading ideas

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

A downtown bustling with moviegoers lined up for the evening's feature at an outdoor theater or baseball fans waiting to see the hometown team or a shopping district filled with the sounds of a jazz festival on the riverfront are all part of the vision for Cape Girardeau as presented by the 2004 graduating class of Leadership Cape.

Leadership Cape is a training program for young professionals and community leaders sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce. As part of the seven-month program, the students work in teams to develop community improvement proposals.

This year's graduating class focused all of its ideas on ways to improve Cape Girardeau's downtown. Perhaps that's a sign that the downtown region and Old Town Cape are making an impact on the community.

Each team presented its ideas during the chamber's First Friday Coffee event at the Show Me Center earlier this month.

One team envisions an outdoor movie theater that would show family films during the summer months. Another hopes for a jazz festival on the riverfront that coincides with the visit of the Grampa Woo excursion boat. A third team wants to see Cape Girardeau land a minor league baseball team. The final leadership team wanted to find a way that would attract more youths downtown.

The teams explained that some of their projects would require funding, and a few even proposed how they'd get the money needed. Partnerships between the city and downtown merchants, grants or even individual sponsorships could help bring the outdoor theater or the jazz music festival to Cape Girardeau.

Many projects from previous years, like a speakers bureau or skateboard park, already have been implemented. At least one of the projects this year already is underway. The Old Town Cape board of directors added a position designated to be filled by a teenager in the community after being approached with the idea by a Leadership Cape team.

The ideas developed by the Leadership Cape class of 2004 are good starting places for developing downtown's shopping and entertainment district. City leaders and tourism officials would do well to take note.

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