Building the future

A new bridge and other projects have Cape Girardeau abuzz
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) -- The new Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge is nearing completion, but that’s not the only thing that has downtown merchants smiling in this southeast Missouri town.

A new federal courthouse, a corridor linking downtown to the bridge, a new River Campus and renovation of a historic old hotel have the community, especially the business community, buzzing.

“It’s becoming a neat place to be,” said Kent Zickfield, owner of Zickfield Jewelers and president of the Downtown Merchants Association. “It’s what we’ve dreamed about.”

For years, downtown Cape Girardeau has become almost an afterthought, Zickfield said, with so much attention and business development taking place in the western part of the community.

The $100 million bridge carrying four lanes of traffic over the Mississippi River is expected to open by the end of the year, replacing an outdated narrow bridge. A major milestone was expected to occur Tuesday with placement of the final steel girder closing the last remaining gap on the structure.

“But we still have quite a fair amount of work to do after that,” engineer Stan Johnson said. More deck panels have to be added, cables have to be adjusted, a three-inch concrete surface must be poured, and electrical work and lighting are still pending.

A new $49.3 million federal building is planned for property that once served as a dump. The building will house three courtrooms and several offices for 97 employees and the federal court and connected agencies. Construction is expected to begin in the fall, and the building is expected to be ready by late 2005.

The first phase of the Fountain Street Corridor project is scheduled to start Aug. 19 and be done by mid-November. Officials hope to have the initial phase finished when the new bridge opens. Phase two will extend the corridor and include biking and hiking paths.

The $35.6 million River Campus project will be a school for the visual and performing arts on the site of a former Catholic seminary. It will feature a walking trail and a shelter overlooking the Mississippi. Preliminary work starts this fall, and the building is expected to open in the summer of 2006.

Once on the brink of being torn down, the old Marquette Hotel now is being prepared to become state office space. Work is expected to be finished by early next year.

Brian Whitlow, project manager for Prost Builders — the group that bought the building — said the $6 million renovation project is on schedule.

“We’ve had to dig way down into the guts of the building to anchor it,” Whitlow said. “We’ve got these big concrete anchors to hold down the walls so that an earthquake couldn’t knock the building down.”

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