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Purpose Built Communities and Cape Girardeau | PORCH Intiative
February’s First Friday Coffee featured a program focused on Purpose Built Communities – an approach being modeled in Cape Girardeau’s south side to revitalize the community.

“PORCH stands for People Organized to Revitalize Community Healing. The south side is a part of the community that has been left out. It’s been abandoned. It’s time to change that,” says Dr. Tamara Buck, Vice Chair of PORCH.

“It’s time to bring [south Cape] back into the fold, and we want to do so in a way doesn’t just uplift the south side, it makes all of Cape Girardeau better and that ought to be the goal – to make all of Cape Girardeau worthy of respect. Worthy of discussion.”

“We don’t want the culture of the south side to change, but we do want to lift it up, so it is a safe and healthy place to live, just like the rest of Cape Girardeau.”

Read more below for a summary of the program.

What is Purpose Built Communities?

Purpose Built Communities is an assemblage of internationally recognized leaders of business, former Mayors, policymakers, philanthropists, community quarterbacks, directors of nonprofits, developers, education experts, finance and asset managers, grant writers, affordable housing directors, real estate executives, corporate officers, community planners, attorneys, consultants, and much more. This “dream team” of innovative thinkers is driven by a collective desire to transform communities, improve the lives of residents of underserved neighborhoods, end a cycle of intergenerational poverty, and set a new course for cities across the country.

Learn more at

How did the Purpose Built Communities concept find its way to Cape Girardeau?

About two and a half years ago, Cape Girardeau City Manager, Scott Meyer got a call from Earl Norman.

Norman said, “I read the Wall Street Journal – this Purpose Built thing – I don’t know what it is, but check it out.”

With skepticism, Meyer agreed and got in contact with the organizers of Purpose Built in Atlanta, where the program began. Shortly after, Norman flew Meyer, Mayor Rediger, and Councilman Joe Uzoaru to Atlanta to look at the program. Recalling this visit, Meyer shared, “20 years ago, Purpose Built started and it really, really works. So that, to me, was very intriguing and inspiring. We were impressed. We then asked Purpose Built to come to Cape Girardeau.”

How is Purpose Built being implemented in Cape Girardeau?

The Purpose Built initiative is being modeled in Cape Girardeau as the P.O.R.C.H. Initiative. A committee of residents is quarterbacking this effort, and their vision is to return the south side of Cape Girardeau to a united, hopeful community of motivated residents who prosper, support each other and live their dreams.

The work they do as a not-for-profit organization is aimed at providing a holistic approach to solving some of our community's biggest challenges. They help ensure their partners are empowered by creating opportunities for individuals and communities, and they are doing this by taking on the Purpose Built model. The Purpose Built model is a multi-dimensional approach focusing on:

1. Cradle-to-Career Education
2. Community Wellness
3. Mixed-Income Housing

Thus far, Cradle-to-Career Education is being tackled beginning with changes at Jefferson Elementary. In addition to implementing a STREAM education model, the culture is changing at the school. Family associations are being formed and attendance is rising. Additional components of this area to be addressed include early childhood learning, vo-tech, employment opportunities, and more.

Many efforts have already been made to improve community wellness and safety. The police department has reworked patrolling in south Cape and has changed how they enforce in the area by building relationships with the people in the neighborhood, establishing an anonymous tip line and implementing a neighborhood roll call. Additional wellness and safety improvements made include a bright light program, an alley sweep and neighborhood development initiatives. Further improvements regarding the development of business and healthcare in the area were also mentioned as a necessity for this program.

Mixed-income housing “lifts up the whole neighborhood,” according to City Manager, Scott Meyer. “If you concentrate poverty, then all people see is poverty, and they will perpetuate poverty.” Taking the south side from a community of renters to a place where there are some rental units, some senior housing, and some homeownership is important to revitalizing the community.

“Please let me be very clear about this,” says Dr. Tamara Buck, Vice Chair of PORCH, “Purpose Built Communities is not about gentrification. It is not about fixing up an area of the city so we can move the current residents out. What we are talking about doing going back to that porches model that those elders talked about in the video. Improving the housing that exists there, and tearing down the deteriorating structures and building new. And then, providing education to the residents who are there as renters, so that they can [develop a pathway to ownership and become home owners]. That’s going to be an important part of this thing.”

PORCH is working with developers and community members on how to go about this.

How can you help?

“If you want to help, reach out. There is work to be done,” says Dr. Buck.

Email –

To view the full First Friday Coffee program, please visit the Cape Chamber’s Facebook page. A quick link to the video is available here.

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