Proposed Leadership Council would help redevelop downtown

Sunday, March 2, 2008 | 6:40 p.m. CST; updated 8:57 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — A proposal to form a Downtown Leadership Council, which would recommend development guidelines to the City Council and assess downtown business opportunities, will be introduced at Monday’s council meeting.

The creation of a leadership council is part of a downtown vision produced by the Boston-based planning firm Sasaki Associates. The firm was hired by the city, MU and Stephens College in 2006 to create a redevelopment proposal for the area.

A leadership council would lay the groundwork to make downtown a “regional center” and prepare Columbia to apply for Missouri Downtown Economic Stimulus Act money, according to City Manager Bill Watkins’ proposal.

The economic stimulus money is meant to facilitate the redevelopment of downtown areas by providing public infrastructure.

The proposed leadership council would assist the city in determining which downtown areas would be developed. The city must determine the size of the area it wants to redevelop before it can apply for the money, Watkins said.

Carrie Gartner, director of the Special Business District, said the organization’s board had not yet voted to endorse the leadership council ordinance. However, she spoke in favor of the overall redevelopment plan and hoped a leadership council would facilitate funding for business owners.

“I think everyone is excited to see the rebuilding of Broadway,” Gartner said.

In the past, Gartner said tax credits have been given for the historical preservation of downtown. But the focus for funding should move to construction of multi-use buildings that house both businesses and residents, Gartner said. “The more people in the district, the better.”

The original proposal called for a 13-member leadership council, but City Council members recommended more representation from residents. Watkins said the proposal has been modified to include, at the council’s request, a representative from the Douglass Park and Benton-Stephens neighborhood associations.

The revised proposal includes a leadership council with city planning director Tim Teddy, economic development director Bernie Andrews and representatives from the Boone County Commission, MU, Columbia College, Stephens College, four neighborhood associations, the Columbia Housing Authority and the Special Business District. The council also would appoint three members, bringing the total to 15.

Watkins said the council could vote to create the leadership council at its March 17 meeting.

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