New high school acting as magnet for business

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

By Heather Kronmueller

Special to Business Today

Construction of a high school in southwest Cape Girardeau is prompting road building and attracting entrepreneurs who want to develop an abundance of open property.

Among new developments:

* A retail center including space for 12 businesses at Highway 74, also called Southern Expressway, and South Silver Springs Road.

* A 102-room Thrifty Inn along Highway 74 between Mount Auburn Road and Interstate 55.

* A four-lane extension of South Silver Springs Road that will go past the new high school and Career Technology Center and connect with Kingshighway.

* A soon-to-open extension of Mount Auburn Road that will connect Southern Expressway with Kingshighway.

All of that has local business owners like Virgil Jones excited about the opportunities. He points out the new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge will open on the east end of Highway 74 in 2003.

Jones, president of Station West Design Center in Cape Girardeau, plans to move his cabinet and kitchen remodeling business from 1459 Thomas Drive to Highway 74 and Silver Springs Road, where it will anchor a strip mall. Jones said it is a prime location because of its proximity to I-55, the new bridge and the Cape Girardeau public schools' high school and career center campus.

"A lot of parents have kids who go to those two schools, and a lot of them have homes," he said. "What we're attempting to do is lease space to businesses that will offer other products for the home -- plumbing, lighting, wallpaper -- to make it a one-stop shop for the homeowner who is building or remodeling."

Just west of the proposed strip mall is 21.2 acres owned by Southeast Missouri Hospital. The hospital acquired the land in May but has no definite plans for development.

"We bought it for long term," said Jim Wente, Southeast administrator and chief executive officer. "We're waiting for the infrastructure to develop."

Wente said the hospital also purchased five acres between Mount Auburn Road and I-55 across the street from the 21.2 acres.

Across Highway 74, just to the west of the land owned by the hospital, is a sign that says a 102-room Thrifty Inn will be built by Drury.

Dan Steska, superintendent of Cape Girardeau schools, said the entire area around the new high school has great potential for development, and he supports it.

"I see no problems unless somebody wants to invest in a business that would be detrimental to the students," he said. "If they wanted to put in a liquor store or tavern, that would cause some concern."

Steska said the most appealing development for students would be fast-food restaurants or gas stations, even though students will not be allowed to leave campus for lunch.

The roads leading to the high school are the only other concern Steska has about the school's location, but he said he hopes they will be finished by the time school starts next fall.

"I've been told they'll be complete," he said.

Most of the traffic to the school is expected to come from the north.

The expansion to four lanes of Mount Auburn Road from Highway 74 to South Silver Springs Road is already complete. The section from South Silver Springs to Kingshighway is paved and striped but will not open until work on the intersection of those two streets is complete.

City planner Kent Bratton said the city will start seeking bids in March for construction of a four-lane South Silver Springs Road from Highway 74 to Kingshighway with a center turn lane in front of the high school to replace the existing two-lane road.

Bratton said eventually the intersection of South Silver Springs Road and Kingshighway will be renovated and a stop light will be added, but the city must wait for a go-ahead from the Missouri Department of Transportation since Kingshighway is a state road.

In the meantime, Lorimont Place Limited, which owns land to the north and south of Silver Springs Road between the career center and Kingshighway, is preparing it for development. Realtor Tom Kelsey said the land on either side of the road eventually will be for sale but not until the intersection is complete.

"We're anxious to see the intersection safer," he said. "Once they finalize the road alignment and we know where the boundaries are, the land will be for sale."

Kelsey said Lorimont Place also owns land just north of where the Thrifty Inn is to be built. Several interested buyers have called about developing there, but Kelsey declined to say who.

Heather Kronmueller is a staff writer at the Southeast Missourian.

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