Group announces plan to revitalize south Cape Girardeau

Breathing new life into south Cape Girardeau

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Committee members shared what they’ve been working on for the past two years to rebuild the south Cape Girardeau neighborhood.

PORCH hosted an event at the River Campus on Friday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. Speakers included city and school officials in addition PORCH committee members.

PORCH hosted an event at the River Campus on Friday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. (Source: Isabelle Hanson, KFVS)
PORCH hosted an event at the River Campus on Friday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. (Source: Isabelle Hanson, KFVS) (Source: Isabelle Hanson, KFVS)

People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing (PORCH) will use the Purpose Built Community (PBC) model to fix big problems facing south Cape and build a future of opportunity for all of its residents.

"We want to really start to heal the community and get past those feelings or abandonment,” said Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck, a Southeast Missouri State University Professor.

Dr. Buck has lived in South Cape Girardeau for the past 21 years and is part of a program designed to breathe new life into her neighborhood.

"I think that this is an opportunity to improve wellness, to improve housing, and really make the south side somewhere where its residents are proud to be there,” said Dr. Buck.

The effort’s called People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing or PORCH. It adopts a model from Purpose Built Communities started in Atlanta and geared toward neighborhoods of concentrated poverty.

“When you follow the model it turns out to turn around neighborhoods and address generational poverty, so what a great model," said Scott Meyer, Cape Girardeau City Manager. “And it seems like it’s worked everywhere its been tried in tens of communities, and so we said well why don’t we try that here.”

It focuses on improved housing, community wellness, and cradle-to-career education. And the people in charge of creating the vision are all from south Cape Girardeau.

“We’re excited to share it with the community and believe that this is a very good step for the City of Cape Girardeau,” said Dr. Buck.

"Really our south side neighborhood hasn’t enjoyed the progress that we’ve seen in the rest of our town, so let’s make sure they catch up with the rest of our city,” said Meyer.

But, Dr. Buck said it hasn’t always been this way.

“People sat on their porches and talked to each other," said Dr. Buck. “Where people took care of one another’s homes and took pride in the own homelands. That’s what I remember, even from the time that I started living in that community. Stop looking in the past and really start looking in the future. And talking with pride. This is where I’m from. And have other people receive it with that same amount of positivity.”

“I like south Cape because of the people,” said Marvin McBride. ”They’re genuine. They’re real.” What changed in the neighborhood is complicated, but “it started, back in the day, and no one was connecting anymore,” said Councilwoman and PORCH Chairwoman Shelly Moore.

The evening announcement was just the first step. PORCH is looking to add more people to their team and work towards raising money to start putting their plan into action.

PORCH is localizing the PBC strategy of improved housing, wellness and education to alleviate crime and poverty. This strategy has proven successful in cities in several states. PORCH goals include:

  • Cradle-to-Career Education
  • STREAM school at  Jefferson Elementary
  • Early childhood education  center
  • Community Wellness
  • Wellness center/clinic in  the neighborhood (through local hospitals) 
  • Fitness/community center
  • New and renovated parks  with restrooms
  • Improved Housing
  • Safer neighborhoods  through Bright Lights program and enhanced nuisance abatement
  • Increase home ownership  and mixed income housing
  • Create a new development  welcoming to all people, regardless of demographics, while preserving a  home for current residents 

Local philanthropist Earl Norman brought the PBC idea to the City of Cape Girardeau after reading about the concept in the Wall Street Journal over two years ago. City Manager Scott Meyer and then Mayor Harry Rediger, brought in PBC leadership, invited the schools to the table and gave the neighborhood a place to meet and plan together.

Following a visit to a PBC school near Atlanta, Cape Girardeau Public Schools have announced their plans for a STREAM school out of Jefferson Elementary. The city has worked with the neighborhood to identify and correct issues like street lighting.

Then Councilman Joe Uzoaru and other landlords hosted cleanup events called Alley Sweep. Community groups are working together and getting things done. “People are reaching out to people,” said City of Cape Girardeau Cpl. Richard Couch, “They’re trying to get things accomplished throughout the community and that’s something that is always going to work.”

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