With land sale, SEMO moves on from 'technology village' concept

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Southeast Missouri State University president Dr. Ken Dobbins speaks at a news conference Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012 announcing the university will sell 247 acres of land at Interstate 55 and LaSalle Avenue to the city of Cape Girardeau for $6 million. (Fred Lynch)

A vision of a technology park once held by leaders of Southeast Missouri State University has turned into one of a different sort led by the city of Cape Girardeau.

Wednesday's announcement of the sale of land from the university to the city for development of a business and technology park will leave the university with money to endow agricultural studies, and, according to university president Ken Dobbins, opportunities for experiential learning for Southeast students. The sale ends Southeast's plans to fill about 400 acres with a technology and science research park, businesses and homes.

"It was a vision, and the economy did a few things to us that we all suffered through," Dobbins said during a news conference Wednesday at city hall.

As of March, university officials had no plans for the land, which once was a demonstration farm, but they were open to alternative plans. With the proceeds from the sale of about 247 acres on the east side of Interstate 55, the university will complete payment for a research farm it moved to Gordonville in 2008 in anticipation of development starting near the interstate. It also will endow $3 million to $4 million to operate its agriculture department and fund scholarships for students.

The university still will own property on the west side of I-55. Dobbins didn't mention specifics about the remaining acreage, but suggested it still is available for sale.

University officials have said plans to develop the land were unsuccessful because of a lack of interest from businesses, which were reluctant to expand during a downturn in the economy that began in 2008.

Plans for the University technology village began in the early 2000s after the Missouri Department of Transportation finalized plans for the East Main Street/LaSalle Avenue interchange on I-55.

"I think this is a better use for the land, quite frankly," Dobbins said of the city's proposed development. "At the [time plans were made for the land], I think the consultant we had thought it would be suited for retail. I don't think big boxes is where it should be."

Dobbins likes the city's plan, which would designate one area of the land for small, niche businesses and place larger distributors in another.

Mayor Harry Rediger did not offer a timeline for development by the city but said he is excited about the potential.

"I think businesses are going to be knocking on our door. I really do," he said.

In 2003, the university projected that by 2012 its technology park would be fully developed -- or well on its way.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

LaSalle Avenue and Interstate 55, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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