Rundown, vacant buildings among top concerns of businesses, residents
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Now painted, roofed, bricked and nearly rehabilitated, the 143-year-old Julius Vasterling building at the corner of Broadway and North Sprigg Street in Cape Girardeau is far from where it was just one year ago.
Kenny Pincksten, a local developer who took on the building's renovation with the help of the city of Cape Girardeau, will soon move his office there. He describes the work he has overseen on the building since last October as a "labor of love."
"This was the worst building on the block. It should have been torn down," he said.
Since purchasing several buildings in Broadway's 600 block, Pincksten has had to tear down more of them than he has had the resources or time to fix. Some just weren't worth saving. But the Vasterling building was different. Pincksten's grandmother worked there sometime in the 1950s. He felt a connection to its history, he said. He went for renovation, even though he said he used to feel sick to his stomach when he walked inside and saw how much work was needed.
The building's partially completed interior now holds two commercial businesses and an apartment. The rest will be finished as soon as Pincksten finds suitable tenants, he said. Overall, Pincksten said, the renovation is the most rewarding project he has ever done.
But Pincksten hopes there ends up being more to the story. What he would really like to see, he said, are similar developments, whether they be new or just made to look that way, come to downtown.
"Personally, I think if downtown is handled properly and the right catalysts are in place, sooner than later, it's going to be the hottest and fastest developing area in Cape Girardeau," Pincksten said.
A National Research Center survey of Cape Girardeau residents and businesses, commissioned by the city this year, found that both groups rated drugs, rundown buildings, vacant buildings and abandoned properties among their issues most in need of attention or most problematic.
Improvements to other buildings along Broadway can also be seen as the street improvement project nears completion. Some business owners have taken advantage of a fund for building facade improvements through Old Town Cape. A clothing store, Philanthropy, that opened in the 400 block of Broadway over the summer has also brightened the area.
City manager Scott Meyer said there have been some "great single projects" in the downtown area recently -- which the city is more than happy to see after plans for some developments have fallen through, such as the renovation of the Esquire theater.
Still other buildings that could pull commercial or residential fillers sit empty, as they have for some time, such as 1 N. Main St., which spans a block between Spanish Street and Main Street along Independence Street, and was for a time rumored to be the next home of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. The organization is still housed in a smaller space across the street.
Meyer said although businesses and residents aren't always satisfied with the attempts of the city to improve its building stock -- and a proposed rental licensing ordinance is currently one of those attempts -- it is necessary to be more aggressive toward enforcing minimum property standards for residences and businesses if improvements are to be seen.
"We don't want to pick on businesses in hard economic times," Meyer said. "But what we really need to happen is for properties not to get rundown in the first place."
The city is also discussing how to make the best use of revenue it will receive from operation of Isle of Capri casino, which opens in November. City officials have said that money spent from casino revenue on capital improvements to the downtown and riverfront areas will spur economic development.
635 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, M0
637 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, MO
401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO