The Battle to Revitalize Cape Girardeau's Downtown
By: CJ Cassidy
CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - What will it take to reach a balance in the battle to revitalize downtown Cape Girardeau?
It's clear many folks around Cape would love to see some changes, but the problem of old buildings still lingers along with the question of how to go about revitalizing them.
"It's a bad pedestrian experience," said Steve Hoffman about walking down parts of Broadway in Cape Girardeau's historic downtown district. Hoffman heads the Historic Preservation Project
Cape Girardeau Mayor Jay Knudtson agrees.
"Many of these old buildings are an eyesore," he said.
But that's where the agreeing ends, and the debate begins.
"These buildings are touchstones to our past. They're part of our history, the kind of things you can't find in any community. We need to rehabilitate them, and bring them into effective use to make them attractive to visitors," Hoffman said.
"In my humble opinion there's nothing special about these old buildings and the look that they have. Often times we have to recognize the best thing to do is level some of these old buildings and start over," Knudtson said.
Then, I asked the historian and the mayor about what they believe is standing in the way of what they think is right.
"I think it's a failure of imagination and it's a commitment to making it work. Look around Broadway. You can see where buildings were torn down. We don't have buildings in their place. We have gravel parking lots,"Hoffman said.
"There are some people who think the answer is to save all these old buildings. That's admirable, but I'm not sure it's the responsible or prudent thing to do," Mayor Knudtson said.
"I don't care if Ulysses S. Grant had coffee up there. That doesn't make it better," he added pointing to the old café that now stands empty and for sale at the corner of Broadway and Sprigg.
Both men have separate visions for the future. The historian wants to help the community connect with their past by renovating old buildings.
The mayor hopes new buildings will attract new businesses to the area. He also says he'd like to create more green spaces like parks, by leveling some of the old buildings.