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Mayor: Trolley could be next downtown Cape upgrade

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Trolleys are a popular way to explore many downtown districts throughout the country. Visitors park, step on board and are carried to shopping, dining and entertainment for a relatively small price. The getting there and back becomes part of the experience, and it's one Cape Girardeau's mayor wants see to happen here.

Adding at least one trolley to downtown is an idea Mayor Harry Rediger believes could help solve issues that have arisen or have been mentioned as potential problems with the construction of the Broadway corridor and Isle Casino Cape Girardeau, both of which were finished and opened last month.

"This, in my mind, brings two things to the table. It alleviates parking issues, and it moves people," Rediger said.

Completion of the Broadway corridor meant parking spaces were eliminated along the street's north side and reduced on the south side to make room for a pedestrian promenade and other features of the new streetscape. A concern the mayor heard during the process that brought the casino to town was that downtown would be bypassed and forgotten as visitors streamed toward the newest form of entertainment. The idea of adding a trolley to take visitors from parking through the downtown area is one the mayor said has been talking about for about a year. How a trolley would be run, who would run it and where the money would come from are still unknown, but Rediger said he is hopeful a committee to look at the idea can be formed by around the first of 2013.

"I want to see people working with this to see what is the best way to do it," he said. "There are all kinds of logistics to work out."

Rediger said he has heard of interest in participation on the committee from the Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce, Old Town Cape, the Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Merchants Association.

Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape, said the idea is one with great potential.

"Making it easy for people to move around downtown would be a great asset," she said.

But Mills agrees with the mayor that there would need to be much analysis and discussion before any moves are made.

"It's something that would be really easy to jump right into, but I just think we need to make sure it's done in the best way we can, to work the way we want it to work and do the things we want it to do," she said.

The mayor said a trolley would solidify downtown Cape Girardeau as a tourist destination.

"The thing about it is I think it would elongate the stay for people," he said. "Right now they run downtown to one place and shop, or run in and eat and leave."

Cape Girardeau had a trolley system from 1893 to 1934, according to Southeast Missourian archives. The system changed to electric street cars in 1904. Portions of the rails were found hidden beneath the street during the construction of the Broadway corridor.

eragan@semissourian.com

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Well they will spend $1,oooooo to study this to death before they finally will need another study, when it can be so simple with buses from hotels, malls, downtown, casino, night spots, to church, take you anywere around town it did when I was a kid. Cape has always been one of the most indecisive bunch I have ever seen in my life and I lived there for years, what a great town it could be.

-- Posted by ssinteriors on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 7:50 AM

"The thing about it is I think it would elongate the stay for people," he said. "Right now they run downtown to one place and shop, or run in and eat and leave."

This is the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a long time. Not sure what the mayor was drinking, but I don't want any of it.

-- Posted by justbob on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 8:40 AM

"Cape Girardeau had a trolley system from 1893 to 1934..."

Cape already had a trolley, they got rid of it...get some new ideas

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 8:48 AM

Of course, the naysayers come out of the woodwork any time Cape Girardeau leaders think boldly.

I'm not saying this is a surefire investment in downtown. But at least Cape Girardeau is finally investing in its downtown. Isn't the Broadway corridor project the first major investment east of Pacific Street in roughly 30 years? It was long overdue.

But at least Cape Girardeau leaders are thinking ahead. And they're looking at ways to improve the community that don't contribute to the mind-numbing sprawl that's occurred west of Kingshighway. That stuff will get built no matter what happens to downtown. Cape Girardeau has largely ignored its downtown for 30-40 years. With 10,000+ Southeast students at the main and river campuses and the casino all just blocks from the core of downtown, a trolley could be a plus for the area. At least it's worth a look.

I'm sure, however, that it will be shot down. And Cape Girardeau will still only have 38,000 people 30 years from now. Cape Girardeau is a beautiful place with a lot of potential, but I'm not sure that potential is ever going to be realized.

-- Posted by SEMO2STL on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 9:18 AM

I went to the new casino. I wasn't impressed. They could have carpeted the arena building, put in some slots and it been about the same. There is nothing that stood out as unique or interesting. There is NO non-smoking section, even though they said there was a non-smoking poker room. There are ropes around the poker tables, I guess that's supposed to keep the smoke out. I did not like this casino and I've been to many casnios. This one is BORING. You'd do better buying scratcher lottery tickets. Now what other entertainment is the mayor talking about that the trolley is going to take you to see. Are there many beautiful parks in this town? Are there lots of things for families with children to do? Cape is just about a dead town in my opinion. The "Broadway Corridor" has some pretty intersections now but it's just as ugly as it has ever been. Main street is about bars for the college students. Oh, that reminds me, when I was at the casino, I am pretty sure there were underage young people there. Somebody needs to check id's better.

-- Posted by stardog on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 9:22 AM

Rediger & Co. spend to much time romancing the past and not enough in the real world. Cape doesn't have a beautiful historic downtown area that people would love a leisurely trip through. Cape's is just old and ugly.

The only good thing that would come from a trolly is the need for a gun shop next to each station and the employment of a couple dozen armed security guards.

-- Posted by malan on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 9:33 AM

stardog anything else? and for once will you leave the smokers alone, this casino has a one million dollar system in it removing the smoke from the facility and you might consider moving out of Cape if you are not at least half way happy.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 9:47 AM

Where in the heck would the trolley go. It would do nothing but take up the road, where you can barley travel now. It would take 10 minutes to get through the downtown area, because it would stop traffic all the time and there is no where to pass. The last thing I want to do is go downtown, try and find a place to park, then get on a trolley. But then again, when has the morons at city hall ever thought anything through??

-- Posted by cartman89 on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 10:55 AM

Are they discussing an actual street car with overhanging wires; or a trolley that is no more than a bus? Several cites use the latter including Charleston, SC.

-- Posted by Grit on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 11:05 AM

Lower the cost of city services and forgot the stupid waste of money pie in the sky ideas.

-- Posted by stinker on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 11:10 AM

swamp, their million dollar system is not working to remove the smoke. And no, I'm not going to leave the smokers alone. In western Kentucky now, where tobacco has long been the cash crop, towns, entire towns are going non-smoking. This town needs to get with cleaning up its act if it is going to move forward. And I'm not moving away...yet.

-- Posted by stardog on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 11:12 AM

Let's not spend the money until were sure it is going to come in as projected. One day at a time in this type of economy which none of us have any idea where it is going.

-- Posted by swampeastmissouri on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 11:24 AM

we already have trolleys -- it's called Cape County Transit

-- Posted by TommyStix on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 3:02 PM

lets see we could reduce the tax payers of Cape by 4 million dollars or spend it on ideas

-- Posted by falcon2412 on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 3:06 PM

Cape doesn't need a trolley. It takes 10 minutes to get from one point to another in town, and a trolley would be a waste of money. People go on Broadway to a specialized shop to get one thing and leave because it literally takes longer to get your car keys out of the purse than it takes to get down there. It's not like this is a big city with lots of traffic, where one is more likely to stay longer to make the rush hour trip worthwhile. This gambling joint is all about breathing carcinogens when you walk in, and there really isn't anything to promote the river culture. This is just basically a repeat of the Caruthersville gambling joint, which most of you argued when I brought that up a year ago that this was going to be much nicer! First thing the casino did: not put a hotel in for people to stay. Why? Because they recognize the craphole nature of the area next to the river, and the fact that the motels along I-55 had more than enough rooms. As for teh quote: "And Cape Girardeau will still only have 38,000 people 30 years from now." - 1) that includes out of town college students 2) Cape has been roughly 30K since 1970; and 3) that is perfectly fine for this town!

-- Posted by Beaker on Tue, Nov 13, 2012, at 5:16 PM

Another proof that bureaucrats will spend the money they have - and more. In this case there is not even a suggestion such a system could be operated on a break-even basis. And, should it extend as far as SEMO, as it once did, Cape might be deprived of the DWI revenues it extracts from the students.

Heck, perhaps it might one day connect the casino with the Pink Pony - all in the name of progress.

-- Posted by semowasp on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 6:31 AM

You miss spelled Folly.

-- Posted by Little Joey on Wed, Nov 14, 2012, at 10:13 AM

"As for the quote: 'And Cape Girardeau will still only have 38,000 people 30 years from now.' - 1) that includes out of town college students 2) Cape has been roughly 30K since 1970; and 3) that is perfectly fine for this town!

Well, that just sums up precisely what is wrong with Cape Girardeau in my opinion, and why I'll probably never move back even though I really wanted to for a long time after I graduated from Southeast Missouri State.

Look, I know as well as anyone else that politicians are all too good at spending everyone else's money. And I'm sure any of us could comb through Cape Girardeau's budget and trim out a lot of fat. But I almost pity the politicians that dare to make Cape Girardeau a growing and more vibrant place because there seems to be so much resistance from a majority of its citizens any time leaders suggest investing in the community.

I struggle to think of a place that is more anti-growth than Cape Girardeau. At least when I was there, I got the impression that a lot of locals didn't care much for SEMO or its students. Most college towns embrace the title and the vibrancy and the boost to the local economy that students bring- look at Springfield or Columbia for proof. Both are also growing much faster than Cape, BTW, and they haven't lost their small-town appeal in the process in my opinion.

Besides, much of the "growth" that's happened over the last 30 years has been in retail, which is supported by the surrounding region. But that alone doesn't make the community vibrant, especially since chain shopping and dining options are here today and gone tomorrow. Look at the mall- it is an absolute embarrassment. Cape does have a lot more big box retailers these days, but how much of that is sustainable without at least some population growth?

Paducah has similar issues in terms of attracting population growth and a distrust of local government. It may lose the USEC plant, and the proposed McCracken County merger didn't go over well. So in that respect, it may have a longer way to go than Cape Girardeau to attract and retain businesses and residents. But Paducah has invested millions of dollars in its core and it's attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors in the process. It revamped its Broadway almost 40 years ago, and while the department stores abandoned it for Kentucky Oaks Mall in the mid-1980s, many other locally-owned stores and restaurants took their place. And speaking of Kentucky Oaks Mall, it was recently renovated, and I'd argue it and the surrounding stores are as much or more of a regional draw than Cape Girardeau's retail.

Someone said earlier that Cape Girardeau is "ugly and old". In some ways, that's true. SEMO has invested heavily in its campuses and it's made a great difference in my opinion. But downtown, at least until the recent investment in the Broadway corridor, has languished for years. When I last visited Cape Girardeau last summer, there were bees and bugs throughout downtown, there was trash in the streets, and a lot of graffiti along the floodwall. I'd suggest that the city fix these things before they look into a trolley, an aquarium, or other projects. But I also think it's good for leaders to "dream big" and maximize the potential Cape Girardeau has.

Finally, did it ever occur to anyone that the glacial pace of population growth will put an additional strain on the city's resources and its tax base? I'm stating the obvious here, but as more people and money flow into the community, the need to increase taxes to maintain and improve city services and to invest in infrastructure is minimized.

I was drawn to Cape Girardeau in part because of its beautiful natural setting and its historic core. It's too bad that more of its residents don't appreciate it more in my opinion.

-- Posted by SEMO2STL on Thu, Nov 15, 2012, at 8:10 AM

SEMO2STL makes some very good points. Perhaps it takes an outsider to understand the importance of a city's character. Cape still retains a historic charm that should be preserved to the benefit of the city. Some good things have happened with downtown in recent years but there is still a lot of work to be done. I'm not sold on the trolley idea but at least the mayor is thinking in the right way wrt downtown.

-- Posted by Mark Rutledge on Thu, Nov 15, 2012, at 9:14 AM

I don't believe that a trolly system would make Cape any more of a tourist destination (it's just a mode of transportation, good for tourism). Had they built in the lines before finishing the Broadway corridor it might of made sence, but this sounds like they'd have to do a lot more construction, if they're trying to hit the historic parts of Cape Girardeau. Now if there were another tourist trap, say a minor league ballpark, near the Glenn House or River Campus, or maybe between Frederick and Fountain on William Street, then that would be a pretty good loop for a trolly to run along.

-- Posted by rt8806 on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 6:13 PM

In response to Beaker's comments about why the casino didn't put a hotel in: Drury. Drury hates anything going downtown. If businesses aren't going to lease their property they'll do anything to keep them from moving public interest downtown. They did it to SEMO with the river campus, costing the university funds they could have put towards building a bigger facility from the get go. Those involved with bringing the casino to town knew this would happen so they said they wouldn't build a hotel.

But as far as saying the area is a craphole, use some common sense. "If you build it, they will come." A destination such as a mall, hospital or casino will increase traffic flow. With the influx of more traffic, businesses will want to build around the increased traffic, hopefully weeding out some of the not so pleasant scenery.

-- Posted by rt8806 on Sun, Nov 18, 2012, at 7:32 PM

A Trolly? We've already got Diesel Powered Vans running all over town with nobody on them. Has anybody else noticed that?

-- Posted by thewonder on Mon, Nov 19, 2012, at 6:26 PM


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