After several distribution centers and manufacturers had bypassed the City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, city acquires land near highway for new business park

Cape prepares to carve out business park

Sunday, February 3, 2013

By Shay Alderman ~ Southeast Missourian

The City of Cape Girardeau recently acquired 247 acres for $6 million to be used as a business park. Faced with the need to create infrastructure and attract industry to the park, a subcommittee will market the property to potential investors.

City manager Scott Meyer said a lift station — a mechanism that pushes waste through gravity-driven sewer systems — already is on the property, although it does not yet have all the pumps it will need. A connection to the station for a future sewer line is in place.

“There is some water out there, but [it is] lacking a water main capable of carrying enough water to serve an entire park.”

Electricity and gas are available through Ameren Missouri at or near the site, Meyer said.

Aside from basic utilities, he said, major infrastructure elements are LaSalle Avenue and Veterans Memorial Drive.

LaSalle Avenue, an artery opened in 2009 to connect people from the north to the city — and paid for with $3.4 million of Transportation Trust Fund III money — bisects the property. Veterans Memorial Drive is an ongoing project that eventually will create a 6 1/2-mile outer road from LaSalle Avenue to Scenic Drive. The section that connects LaSalle Avenue to Bainbridge Road/County Road 306 and traverses the business park was completed in December at a cost of $2.3 million. It was funded by the City of Cape Girardeau, Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission and federal Surface Transportation Program. Upon completion, the road will belong to the city, Meyer said.

Veterans Memorial Drive is valued because it ties the park to the surrounding highway system and serves as a central road along which connections to future businesses can be built, Meyer said.

Plans for the city’s preliminary capital improvement program [CIP] include funding for a water main to be built along Veterans Memorial Drive to LaSalle Avenue and loop through the park to provide “plenty of water infrastructure,” Meyer said.

Also planned is a sewer line to run through the park, south of LaSalle Avenue, to the pump station. The portion of the park north of LaSalle Avenue is not yet included in current infrastructure planning, but Meyer said the city will seek grants or other sources of funding to begin developing it.

A draft CIP was circulated among city staff Jan. 24 and included a recommendation that $1,265,000 of Isle Casino Cape Girardeau revenue be used to fund a sewer system for the park. The cost of additional street infrastructure was estimated at $2 million and possibly paid for with grants.

Water improvements are expected to be paid for by capital generated by the recent refinancing of city bonds, Meyer said.

Further development will depend upon industry investment and what grants and funding opportunities may be available by partnering with those industries, he said.

The city, Meyer said, does not have studies that can estimate the future payoff to the city. The city determined obtaining and developing the land was necessary to be competitive in the market, noting that several distribution centers and manufacturers had bypassed the city.

Do it Best Corp. broke ground last summer on a 100-acre tract at the Business, Education and Technology Park in Sikeston, Mo., after officials couldn’t find a suitable site in Cape Girardeau.

“The main reason, as we analyzed where things had gone elsewhere, was available land near the interstate. If we want to compete for those jobs, we were going to have to do something,” Meyer said. Efforts to work with existing landowners had been unsuccessful.

“You’ve got to continue to grow your city in terms of market and economic development,” Meyer said.

A survey of Cape Girardeau residents last summer rated economic growth and a strong economy as the city’s most important issues.

“So, this was the step that was taken,” Meyer said.

On Jan. 17, the city council appointed a subcommittee, comprised of Meyer and council members Mark Lanzotti and Trent Summers, to begin to work on marketing strategies for the park. The city plans to sell tracts to investors, he said, but leasing may be an option.

The city already has had some interest, according to John Mehner, Cape Girardeau Area Chamber of Commerce president, but names of those parties could not be disclosed.

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