New Fountain Street extension opens in Cape Girardeau

Thursday, December 9, 2010
Mayor Harry Rediger removes a barricade on Morgan Oak just east of the new roundabout on the finished Fountain Street extension project with assistance from Tom Higgins and Kathy Swan, just before noon on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010. (Fred Lynch)

The dream goes something like this: Visitors, many thousands of them, pass through the newly extended Fountain Street each year on their way to any number of downtown destinations to open their wallets in Cape Girardeau's restaurants, retail shops and other businesses.

If it is a dream, city officials say it's now a more realistic one, with the completion of a $1.3 million Fountain Street extension project. The street near Southeast Missouri State University's River Campus opened Wednesday after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, where the project was described as a possible economic spur in an otherwise blighted area.

"It's been five years in the making, and it was really a beginning of a new era with a lot of partnerships," said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape. "It's a beautiful entrance to the downtown. It shows hope of new development. A lot of downtowns don't have that opportunity."

The seven-month project is a 1,300-foot extension of Fountain Street from Morgan Oak Street to William Street. The boulevard-style brick street with a landscaped median continues Fountain Street from Highway 74, which provides access to downtown from both Interstate 55 and Illinois. Ground was broken on the project May 19. The contracting company, Nip Kelley Equipment Inc., completed the project ahead of schedule.

A roundabout was installed at Fountain and Morgan Oak streets, along with decorative street lights. The new road was built along an abandoned railroad bed and finished with brick pavers in a herringbone pattern.

At the ceremony, city manager Scott Meyer said Cape Girardeau's designation as a DREAM city was key. The state's Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri program helped secure grant funding for the project. Cape Girardeau was one of the first cities to be selected for the state-funded DREAM initiative.

DREAM awards money to smaller cities across Missouri for surveys and planning help. Project funding included a Community Development Block Grant of $400,000, Missouri Department of Transportation Grant of $104,000, $490,000 in federal funding and $300,000 from the city's Transportation Trust Fund for street improvements.

Because of the city's DREAM status, grant requests were given higher priority.

"It's an important connection," Meyer said. "It's not just a street that's for getting from point A to point B."

Tim Arbeiter of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce helped draft the grant requests. He sees the area as having the potential of having a nice mix of commercial and residential development.

"I'm not a fortuneteller, but I can see little shops, little eateries and coffee shops," Arbeiter said.

The new roadway is the first step to helping renovate an area of town that has been blighted for years, Mayor Harry Rediger said.

"That was a nothing area with some old blighted buildings and a big ditch, practically," Rediger said. "Now we have an area with a completed street that will see a lot of traffic and has the potential for development. The potential is there, where it wasn't before."

An effort is underway to put some public art in the center of the roundabout, though the work is too preliminary to discuss, Rediger said.

The Fountain Street project is just another in a string of good-news projects, Rediger said, including the casino announcement and Wednesday's news of a new $10 million vision and dental clinic.

"It's exciting," Rediger said. "It coming together, and we're moving ahead in a very organized manner. We're excited about these developments."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

Fountain Street, Cape Girardeau, MO

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