Cape Girardeau could get aquarium, shopping district from new plan

Friday, May 29, 2009 | 2:06 p.m. CDT; updated 3:30 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 29, 2009

CAPE GIRARDEAU — Cape Girardeau could see additions such as a Mississippi River aquarium or a shopping district near Southeast Missouri State University under a proposed plan.

A board of directors for Old Town Cape has approved a master plan that targets three sections of the southeast Missouri city for potential redevelopment.

Several other organizations in Cape Girardeau still need to approve the DREAM Initiative master plan.

The plan, which lays out ambitious objectives on a 10- to 20-year timeline, was developed under the state's Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri program.

"Our board is very excited about it," said Marla Mills, executive director of Old Town Cape. "They are excited because it is not only a plan that gives direction but it gives direction to the kinds of development and how to do that."

Cape Girardeau was named one of 10 DREAM Initiative cities in 2006. Since then, with the aid of $300,000 state grant, a St. Louis architectural firm surveyed residents, businesses and visitors about how to recreate the downtown. The plan was presented at an open house in April.

The most dramatic ideas included the aquarium, a 100-room hotel and a riverside amphitheater seating 500 to 1,000 people.

The design firm recommended creation of a Community Improvement District that would have authority to tax property and sales in designated areas to raise money for safety issues, lighting, cleanup and marketing.