Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Old Town Cape organization strives to help downtown Cape Girardeau community thrive

Monday, September 24, 2012
Intersection of Pacific St. and Broadway under construction, which was supported by Old Town Cape. Photo by Nathan Hamilton

Old Town Cape, a nonprofit organization that strives to revitalize the downtown Cape Girardeau area, has a five- to ten-year plan to restructure the downtown area.

The Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) plan was created to develop a strategic plan with specific goals for downtown Cape Girardeau.

Organization President Dr. Lisa Bertrand said that Old Town Cape was created about ten years ago and consists of 130 blocks and 300 businesses and organizations. It is an accredited Main Street Program, which is a national program that promotes enhancing downtown areas economically. The Main Street Program is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Old Town Cape's vision states that the organization strives to help the downtown area "become a community that cherishes its past and is economically viable district for the citizens of Cape Girardeau to live, work and play."

The duo Jeff and Vida performed bluegrass music Friday, Sept. 21, at the Common Pleas Courthouse Gazebo. Photo by Nathan Hamilton

Bertrand said that Old Town Cape is comprised of committees that are divided into four designations -- organization, promotion, economic reconstruction and design. These committees are financed by investors from the Cape Girardeau area.

"Investors can invest as little as $25," Bertrand said. "It's about a commitment to the organization, not the money. There is a very large group of people interested in making the downtown area thrive."

There are tentative goals in Old Town Cape's DREAM Initiative to create a university village near the Southeast Missouri State University campus, a river museum and aquarium and a riverfront park in the next 10 years.

Many of the tentative plans in the initiative are not restricted to a time frame. Member of the organization committee Heather Brooks said that many of the plans for the DREAM Initiative are dependent on the developers and business owners who are looking to set up in the downtown area.

For example, Brooks said the plan for a university village will depend on business interests. According to Brooks, the village will hopefully consist of developers and businesses that cater to the needs of students and faculty of Southeast.

"It makes sense to attract businesses for the students and faculty to utilize," Brooks said.

According to Brooks, it's all about the direction of businesses in the downtown area.

"Assessing developers is key," Brooks said. "Suggesting placement to interested businesses is a big part of the plan. If a business is art-related, we would suggest they set up near our River Campus. If a business is a boutique, we would suggest that they set up by the riverfront. And if a business caters to the needs of the the university students and faculty, we would suggest they locate on a section of Broadway near campus."

Some of the Old Town Cape and the DREAM Initiative accomplishments include the organization of the development of the Discovery Playhouse on Broadway, the Schultz Senior Housing on Pacific Street and Tunes at Twilight and Storytelling Festivals held in the downtown area. They are also responsible for organizing and supporting the city's reconstruction of Broadway from its intersection with Main Street to its intersection with Pacific Street.

Bertrand said that Old Town Cape is interested in keeping Southeast students involved in the revitalization, since they are a big part of keeping the downtown economy thriving.

"Students go downtown to eat, shop and see local music," Bertrand said. "It is important to keep them involved with Old Town Cape."