Student Project Evolves into New Downtown Community Space

EVT-PlaceMakingCAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri, April 30, 2014 – An urban renewal project titled “Bridging Space through Placemaking” will be dedicated at 11 a.m. May 1 on the northwest corner of Broadway and Sprigg by historic preservation, art and horticulture students and faculty at Southeast Missouri State University along with City of Cape Girardeau officials.

The space, adjacent to Broadway Prescription at 710 Broadway in downtown Cape Girardeau, has been transformed into a student art showcase garden, an urban renewal project launched by Southeast senior Lydia Ness, a historic preservation major from Valley Park, Missouri. The project marks the completion of Ness’ honors distinction project.

The project is designed to benefit both the Southeast student population as well as the city and downtown areas. The space is primarily focused on showcasing student artwork. At the centerpiece of the space is a sculpture created by Southeast student Ashley Sexton of Cape Girardeau. The area also features park benches, trees and shrubbery donated by the Cape Girardeau Department of Parks and Recreation that will be installed and planted by students in Southeast’s horticulture  program.

“This project will benefit both Southeast students and the community because it allows them to connect and activate a space downtown,” said Ness. “It is a benefit for the students since it allows them to showcase their art in the community in an area that has heavy traffic, which allows for many individuals to see their art piece. It’s a benefit to the community because it is a way for them to see what students are doing and the great work they are accomplishing.”

Ness’ concept for the space was derived from a utilization method called Placemaking. Placemaking centers on the idea that those who live in an area best know how to make the best use of space located in that area. Located near Southeast Missouri State University and in an area in which many students reside, Ness’ plan focused on how the space could best serve University students.

“I think the project is beneficial to the community because it activates a space that was not only unattractive and underutilized but also created a break in the pedestrian rhythm of an important intersection in Cape Girardeau,” said Dr. Steven Hoffman, professor of history and historic preservation program coordinator at Southeast. “By infusing this lot with a new use as a pocket park featuring student public art, the entire intersection and the surrounding stretch of Broadway can be enlivened and integrated into the Broadway pedestrian corridor.”

Ness calls Placemaking both a concept and a philosophy noting how it centers on space adapting to the needs of people as opposed to people adapting to the limitations of space. Ness hopes the space continues to serve as a ‘student corner’ where students can showcase their artistic works to the community.

“This project was able to give me real world experience with the work of collaboration across many departments and organizations in the city,” said Ness. “It showed how an idea of downtown revitalization through the Placemaking concept can shift and change throughout the process.

“This project shows that intervening in the built environment with people-oriented Placemaking concepts executed using lighter, quicker, cheaper principles can make a positive contribution to downtown revitalization and to the public’s use of previously underutilized space in the public realm,” Ness said.

Assisting Ness with the project from Southeast were Hoffman; Chris Wubbena, professor of art; and Sexton along with city officials Julia Thompson, director of Cape Girardeau Parks and Recreation; Ryan Shrimplin, Cape Girardeau city planner; Molly Hood, assistant Cape Girardeau city manager; and Marla Mills, director of Old Town Cape.