The Old Town Cape Board of Directors voted unanimously to endorse the plan, which targets three areas in central Cape Girardeau for investment and potential redevelopment. Developed under the state's Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri, or DREAM, Initiative program, the plan lays out ambitious objectives on a 10- to 20-year timeline.
"Our board is very excited about it," said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape. "They are excited because it is not only a plan that gives direction but it gives direction to the kinds of development and how to do that."
Cape Girardeau was named one of 10 DREAM Initiative cities in 2006 when the first round of selections were made. Since then, with the aid of $300,000 state grant, Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets Inc., a St. Louis architecture, design and planning firm, has surveyed residents, businesses and visitors as it considered how Cape Girardeau could recreate its downtown. The firm's work resulted in a plan presented at an open house in April.
The proposal has big ideas the planners said should be part of an integrated effort to improve three downtown areas -- the Broadway corridor from Southeast Missouri State University to the river, the central shopping district along Main and Spanish streets and the historic Haarig district along Morgan Oak and Good Hope streets. The most dramatic ideas included the aquarium, a 100-room hotel and a riverside amphitheater seating 500 to 1,000 people.
The Old Town Cape endorsement must be confirmed by several other groups, including the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city Planning and Zoning Commission, the Historic Preservation Commission and the city council.
One of the first implementation steps recommended by the design firm was to create a Community Improvement District that would have authority to tax property and sales in designated areas. Money raised could be used for safety issues, lighting, cleanup and marketing, for example.
The boundaries of any proposal to create a Community Improvement District are still to be determined, Mills said. While Old Town Cape encompasses about 130 blocks, the district would likely focus on the areas highlighted the DREAM plan, she said.
Old Town Cape encompasses many blocks of residential areas and most of those areas will likely be excluded, she said. Taxes in a Community Improvement District are imposed after a vote of property owners.
"This is the mechanism that would bring all the property owners and businesses to the table and give us some opportunity to take the first step," she said. "It would give us the resources to move forward, but it is not intended to be the sole funding mechanism."
A property tax of about $1.05 per $100 assessed valuation would raise close to $80,000, according to a report issued by the consultants. A sales tax of 1 percent would initially raise about $400,000 annually, the report projects.
The DREAM plan needs support to work, Mills said.
"We are very excited about the direction this takes the downtown area," she said. "It gives us as an organization the ability to do some of the things we need to do."
418 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO