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DREAM grants topic at First Friday Coffee

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cape Girardeau is in the midst of acquiring the property needed to extend Fountain Street from Morgan Oak Street to Independence Street, and work on the project could begin as early as this summer, city manager Doug Leslie said Friday.

Leslie made his comment after hearing a presentation on the progress of the DREAM, or Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri, Initiative in Cape Girardeau, at the First Friday Coffee sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce.

Cape Girardeau has landed $1.5 million from various grants since the city was named one of 10 DREAM cities in the first round of designations in September 2006. So far, the initiative has been a planning venture as surveys, focus groups, housing analyses and marketing reviews have been underway, Tim Arbeiter of the chamber told the assembled business leaders.

"It is not the sexy part of the dream," Arbeiter said. "That will come later when the comprehensive plan for downtown is done."

The effort has required teamwork, with local officials, state officials and business interests working together, Arbeiter said.

What has made the effort different from past attempts to create an identity for downtown has been the comprehensive nature of the studies and the ability to bring highly trained planners to the process, he said.

Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, said she has heard comments questioning whether the DREAM Initiative would have tangible results. The money alone is one concrete development, she said.

"For the naysayers who say nothing has come out of this initiative, a $1.5 million commitment to the community is a result of the initiative."

The grants include:

* $400,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for the Fountain Street project and $185,000 in enhancement funds for the same project from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

* $142,270 in tax credits for the Discovery Playhouse Children's Museum.

* $102,000 from the Missouri Housing Development Commission to repair five homes.

* $5,000 from the Missouri Arts Council for the Storytelling Festival.

* $600,000 in state and federal tax credits per year for 10 years for renovation of the Schultz School for use as senior apartments.

* $70,000 in Missouri Heritage Properties Program funds to replace the heating and cooling system in the Common Pleas Courthouse.

The First Friday Coffee also afforded Old Town Cape an opportunity to make its annual awards presentation. A dinner event was canceled Feb. 21 because of an ice storm that hit the city.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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