Yes, it's possible to be for progress and preservation at the same time.
The trick is to not let one impinge on the other.
So, yes, I think the improvements along Broadway that Southeast Missouri State University has made are for the better. I do not miss the business buildings that were there before.
And, yes, I like the looks of the building at Broadway and Spanish Street that once housed the Keyes music store. Underneath all that old paint is a beautiful edifice destined to become a downtown landmark.
The difference between the missing buildings near the university's stadium and the building being rehabbed is money--and who has it.
The university had the money to acquire some buildings and convert the space into needed parking. Entrepreneur Su Hill is investing in the building at the corner of Spanish Street because she believes there is a potential profit there.
I don't have any nostalgic feelings for the missing buildings the university tore down. I don't have any ties to Su Hill's building either. If it came down tomorrow, I would not be terribly upset.
There are some buildings that define Cape Girardeau's landscape that I would miss. I'd hate to see the Common Pleas Courthouse disappear. But what will it take to ensure a long future for that piece of history? Money.
It would pain me if the folks at Old St. Vincent's sold that piece of history and it came down brick by brick. What keeps it going? Money.
Several properties in the downtown area are for sale that have some benefits because of their history. Developers of these buildings can claim tax credits that could have a significant impact on how much they have to invest before turning a profit. The key? Money.
Not every building is worth saving. Some have become real eyesores. What's the difference? Money.
Driving around the older areas of Cape Girardeau, you have to wonder if a cleared lot wouldn't be better than a dilapidated building.
My wife and I have resided in Cape Girardeau just over 15 years. We are amazed, as relative newcomers, by the change in the city's landscape. When we run errands together, we constantly point out new buildings that weren't here in 1994. Much of that change has been on the city's western fringes. Surely I-55 travelers see the changes too and think, "This must be a city with something on the ball. Look at all that development. That took a lot of money."
Question: What would these same passers-through have to say after a drive down Broadway? They might say: No one wants to spend much money here.
I also think there's another reason potential investors in the downtown area are so reluctant: parking. We're a society that would rather not walk a block if we can drive and park--and then drive and park again to reach the next store. Never mind that when we go to Walmart most of us have to walk more than a block across the parking lot.
The potential for downtown has already been demonstrated. Look at the results of significant investments that already have been made in homes, businesses and churches. They are a source of community pride. It's too bad so many of the neighboring properties look like slums. How encouraged are developers to sink money into a project when the building next door or across the street is falling down?
I hear people every day say, "Why doesn't someone turn that building into a (fill in the blank)?" I can tell you: "Someone" has to have money--and a reasonable expectation that making such an investment will return a profit.
Archimedes said: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world."
Give me a bag of money big enough, and I'll turn downtown into a showplace.
R. Joe Sullivan is
editorial page editor for the Southeast Missourian.