Cape to Tackle Dangerous Buildings
Posted on 04/25/2022

Cape to Tackle Dangerous Buildings

Unsafe, vacant, and abandoned buildings have long been a top concern for Cape Girardeau. Residents often report illicit activity and unsightly nuisances in places no longer maintained by their owners.

“Nuisance properties increase crime risk while plunging local property value,” said City Manager Dr. Kenny Haskin. “Removing unsafe structures is one way we can reduce crime and improve neighborhoods.”

The City’s new mayor and staff will soon propose to City Council to use $125,000 from American Rescue Plan funds to almost triple the amount available to demolish unsafe, abandoned buildings.

The move comes as the City is focusing on more public safety initiatives. City Hall recently announced hiring incentives for police, fire and CDL drivers, pay raises, and a significant investment in gunshot detection services. The ShotSpotter technology is already in use.

“The Police need our direct financial support, but they also need our support creating an environment where crime is less likely to occur in the first place,” said Mayor Stacy Kinder. According to the U.S. Department of Housing, abandoned properties have negative effects on communities including reduced property values, increased crime, increased risk to public health and welfare, and increased costs for municipal governments.

The City’s Fire Department recently noted about 15 vacant structure fires in last two years. Not only do these threaten the neighbors, but an uninhabitable structure is additionally dangerous to responding firefighters. The uptick prompted the CGFD to flag condemned properties when responding to 911 calls.

Through the Comprehensive Plan process, a long-term guide for growth and development, residents overwhelmingly said they wanted the City to focus on renewal and renovation. The plan was adopted in 2020 following a lengthy public input process.

“Our city limits have expanded with new neighborhoods in recent years, but there isn’t a lot of vacant space left within the city for new development. What Cape does have is a lot of redevelopment opportunity, so we’ve got to make that opportunity more attractive and attainable with the great assets we do have,” said Kinder.

Code enforcement officials work with property owners to improve neglected properties, but without proper maintenance and investment, many slide into an uninhabitable status. The City then observes a condemnation process that can take a year or more to complete.

“It is not a quick process but we want to honor property owner’s rights and give them every opportunity to take responsibility,” said Kinder.