Cape Girardeau officials are driving forward with the $3.85 million Broadway corridor plan that eliminates 64 parking spots on the north side of the street to make way for a 15-foot-wide "pedestrian promenade."
But if plans discussed Monday night progress, the project's year-end completion date could come with more parking on Broadway, not less.
With that in mind, the Cape Girardeau City Council directed its staff to move forward with the plans as they are.
The project, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, came into question after business owners along Broadway expressed concerns recently, arguing that the loss of spaces would hit their bottom line.
Some said they would prefer the city go with the other option that left some of the improvements in place but also kept the parking. At last month's council meeting, members John Voss and Kathy Swan asked city manager Scott Meyer to look at parking options to address those concerns.
After a two-week review period, Development Services director Kelly Green made a brief presentation to the council Monday night. Green and Meyer both recommended that the council continue on with the option that creates the wider sidewalk.
The current design cost, already at $403,000, would increase by another $180,000, Green said, if the plan were changed. To make the changes would take the project's consultants, Horner & Shifrin of St. Louis, another 90 days to make, she said. If that were to happen, she said, she would recommend waiting to the next construction season.
Construction is slated to begin in April and be completed by the end of the year, Green said. The project's scope also includes street resurfacing, sidewalk replacement and gutter improvements.
A better alternative than switching course, Green said, would be to partner with several property owners to share existing parking lots. While Green stressed that no agreements have been formalized, preliminary talks have taken place with Trinity Lutheran Church, First Presbyterian Church, Dollar General and John Wyman, who owns the H&H Building.
If agreements can be reached, the city could potentially gain access to 114, a net gain of 50 spaces, even after the spots are removed for the project.
An early study by the city estimates that Trinity, which tore down a building it owns on Broadway to build a parking lot, could offer 54, Dollar General 20, the H&H 10 and First Presbyterian 30.
Several Broadway business owners attended the meeting, including the most vocal opponents, Dru and Glenn Reeves of Horizon Screen Printing. They said they would prefer option one and suggested that the city hadn't done enough to gather input from business owners who would be affected.
"I'm glad to see something's being done," Dru Reeves said after Green's presentation. "But we think option two will be detrimental to our business and other businesses on the north side of Broadway. It's a gamble. It's obviously a gamble."
But three other Broadway business owners showed up at Monday night's meeting to say that they support the project as it is, even without the parking. Developer John Buckner, who recently purchased the old Esquire Theater on the north side of Broadway, spoke out strongly in favor of the project. Buckner also has announced his intentions for a few other buildings on Broadway, including a 24-hour diner.
"I have made a significant investment on Broadway with plans for additional develoipment," Buckner said. "All of this was made with the full knowledge and understanding of the plans included in the Broadway project."
In fact, he said, he felt so strongly about the promenade, he would "need to reconsider my direction if the plans for the street were altered or delayed."
Others who spoke in favor included Laurie Everett of Annie Laurie's Antiques and Lee Schlitt, the owner of Broadway Prescription Shop.
Schlitt said he had concerns about the loss of parking initially as well. But when he saw that the sidewalk has the potential to attract more people, his concerns were assuaged.
"I think the increase in business and the increase in the sense of community on Broadway is better for my business than the four spots we have," he said.
Broadway, Cape Girardeau MO