Cape Girardeau, Missouri sits on the banks of the Mississippi River and is the home of over 300 downtown businesses and 4500 downtown residents. It has one of the largest Main Street districts in the nation encompassing 130 blocks and was a 2015 recipient of the Great American Main Street Award through the National Main Street Center. Receiving a Great American Main Street Award is a distinguished honor of recognition for Main Street programs that have demonstrated exceptional use of the Main Street Approach™ and have a strong organizational capacity spurring community transformation and historic preservation, all of which is true for Old Town Cape. Cape Girardeau is truly an amazing place!
Cape Girardeau continues to develop, seeing more business and more people, as Old Town Cape, the Accredited Main Street Organization for Cape Girardeau, and other community partners work together towards a strong, vibrant, and diverse community. Old Town Cape viewed the Downtown Strong grant as a great opportunity to strategically focus their organizational capacity and to flesh out plans to address some ongoing community concerns around crime, homelessness, and safety. After having success in aiding development downtown through initiatives and partnerships that have brought projects downtown increasing the number of jobs and businesses and developing the streetscape of downtown, they wanted to use the grant to make the downtown environment even more conducive to growth.
These community concerns affect especially the local citizens’ view of downtown and Old Town Cape wanted to address the issue head-on. They are receiving assistance through the Downtown Strong Grant to develop an Amenities Plan to address community concerns, help create a more positive attitude toward downtown by locals and visitors alike, and create a more welcoming and safer environment.
After a two-day site visit, fact-finding, and interviews with key community and downtown stakeholders, Jay Schlinsog of Downtown Professionals Network assisted in the development of a two-pronged plan, looking at specific policies that can impact and manage homelessness, crime, and the environment by addressing lighting, activities, storefronts, and litter. Through the development of this strategic plan, Old Town Cape has been able to engage with additional partners, learn more about local services, and be more aware of the situation. Now that they are in the initial steps of implementing components of the plan, there are countless possibilities of how Cape Girardeau will begin to tackle the concerns of its community.
To impact some lighting concerns, the police are using a newly acquired lighting trailer to temporarily illuminate dark areas of a parking lot. The Old Town Cape Board held one of their recent meetings at the newly renovated home of a local social service agency downtown that addresses homelessness issues. The Board gained first-hand insight on the homelessness issues and ways to make an impact. Along with developing a strong partnership with an organization that can help in constructive and restorative ways, they are learning tips they can pass on to businesses as well.
Old Town Cape, through the Downtown Strong Grant, is working to foster a safer and more welcoming environment that in turn will promote even more growth, and allow them to better serve their community.
The service highlighted in this article were prepared by Missouri Main Street Connection, Inc. using Federal funds under award 05-79-06056 from Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.