"There's a lot of memories of the old gab sessions we had in the old building, but we'll build new memories in our new building," said Howard, part owner of Howard's Athletic Goods. He said the Saturday morning conversations about games were one of his fondest memories growing up around the business, which has since moved across the street.
The old building, on the corner of Broadway and Pacific Street, was one of several buildings acquired by the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation in the past year. It will be demolished as part of a $2 million multiphase project to add parking for Southeast Missouri State University along Broadway.
As workers finish construction on the new $23.7 million residence hall near the university's main entrance on Henderson Avenue, buildings started coming down across Broadway to make way for parking.
The university is focusing its efforts on finishing the 122-space lot by Aug. 15 to accommodate students in the new dorm, said Kathy Mangels, the university's vice president of administration and finance.
"Our first priority was to meet the parking needs of the students," she said.
Workers are scheduled to start razing buildings near Pacific Street, including the Howard's building, next week. Paving on the west side of the street is expected to be complete by Sept. 15, she said. The other side of Pacific Street will be converted into green space.
Mangels said the university will re-evaluate the project's budget at the beginning of the fall semester to determine when the next phases will start. The rest of the project will include paving the area on the east side of Pacific Street and landscaping all the new parking areas.
She said the university worked with the city throughout the planning phases to ease concerns about the project. Mangels said the project's design firm met with consultants for the DREAM Initiative to help the city work toward its goals.
"As many people know, there's also the challenge of maintaining those buildings," she said.
Howard said it would have cost at least $100,000 to repair his building. The move allowed the store to expand its awards and trophy section while eliminating some of the less profitable aspects of the business.
"The building was actually too big for our business," he said. "We had a lot of wasted space. Now we're more compact and cost effective."
He said he had been talking with the university for eight to 10 years about the purchase. Howard said the time was right for the move and customers have adjusted.
"I think it all boils down to quality and service," he said. "We've been blessed with great employees and they in turn brought us great customers."
He said the old building includes memories of past employees, including Paul Bray, who worked there for 34 years, and Terry Slattery. Slattery earned half ownership of the business in February after working in the store for more than 25 years, Howard said. He said they were excited about the change.
"I think the university will make a very nice, attractive entrance there," he said.
Ken Eftink, interim city manager, said the university's increased presence along Broadway will have a positive influence on the area.
"I think they consider it their front door, too," he said.
Because the new parking lot will be across from campus along Broadway, the university and the city have been discussing ways to create a crossing area.
"We were looking at something as simple as a pedestrian crossing with pedestrian lights," Eftink said. There is also the possibility of putting in a new stoplight, he said.
Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, said the university worked with her organization to make sure its project would complement other plans for the downtown area.
"When they do a project, they do it right," she said.
She said the university has the task of balancing its needs with helping downtown revitalization efforts.
"The university is part of our downtown and they have needs as well," she said.
Mills said Old Town Cape generally supports the preservation of buildings and would prefer to see parking lots set further away from Broadway.
"In general, preservation isn't about creating parking lots," she said.
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