Church to raze historic downtown Cape building

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
The building at 501 Broadway was recently bought by Trinity Lutheran Church. Earlier this month, the church got a permit to demolish the two-story brick structure. (Laura Simon)

A Cape Girardeau building that has been on Broadway for 105 years isn't likely to see its 106th.

Trinity Lutheran Church has asked for -- and been issued -- a demolition permit by city officials that gives it until late December to tear down the building at 501 Broadway, a structure now best known for the large mural on its west wall.

The permit, which cost the church $20, was issued Nov. 8 and is good for 45 days from that date, said Tim Morgan, director of the city's Inspection Services Department.

While the church could ask for an extension, Morgan said he has been given no reason to believe the two-story brick building that was built in 1906 won't come down during the permit's time frame.

The church has already proven it has had the utilities turned off, as required, Morgan said. Morgan and church leaders did not know the exact day the building would come down. But the church has hired Sabre Excavating of Thebes, Ill., to do the work. David Renshaw, of Sabre, did not return phone calls Monday.

A chain-link fence has already been put up around the building, which the city requires of certain demolition projects, Morgan said. The contractor has also been informed, he said, that it is responsible for rerouting traffic on that section of Broadway the day the building is razed.

Requirements can be met with barricades or flagmen, Morgan said, as well as proper signage. The city has no further involvement, Morgan said, other than to make sure it's properly cleaned up afterward.

"Once they prove the utilities have been turned off, it's in their hands," Morgan said.

Ideas being discussed

The church's pastor, the Rev. Doug Breite, said the church has yet to "fully determine" what will be done with the space once the 12,500-square-foot building comes down. Some ideas that are being discussed include using it for green space, parking or a mix of both, Breite said.

Breite also did not know exactly when the building will come down.

"But the fence went up around the building, which indicates to me it will be sooner rather than later," he said.

The church bought the building over the summer from Bob Cotner, whose family had owned it since 1919. Over the years, the building has been home to an auto parts store, a mercantile company, SEMO Video and other commercial endeavors.

Cotner allowed Trinity to commission the painting of the mural, which says, "Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it."

While there had been talk of somehow saving the mural -- perhaps taken down brick by brick -- Breite said the mural will be destroyed with the building, though he noted that they have taken several pictures of the mural.

Breite also said that, whatever the church does, it wants to ensure the space complements the Broadway corridor project that calls for $3.85 million in upgrades.

"I think the main thing is that whatever is done will be done tastefully to enhance the Broadway corridor," Breite said.

The building is in the Broadway-Middle Commercial Historic District, which includes the 500 block of Broadway and the 100 block of North Middle Street. But that designation provides the building no protection from demolition, since it was not declared a local landmark.

Old Town Cape executive director Marla Mills said it was not her preference to have the building come down. But she said she understands the decision by a property owner.

She said she also hopes church leaders will keep in mind that the corner is along a heavily used thoroughfare.

"We'd hope that they would utilize the principles for pedestrian areas and urban walkways," Mills said. "We've met with them and during our meeting they said they were interested in those ideas, and I'm sure they will look into the best ways they can do that."


Pertinent address:

501 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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