Consultants review east downtown for historic properties

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | 10:55 p.m. CDT; updated 7:24 p.m. CST, Friday, February 19, 2010

COLUMBIA - Two consultants hired by the city will tour east downtown Thursday to study whether a proposed extension of Elm Street to College Avenue would affect historic properties in the area.

The consultants will review and document about 60 historic buildings in the neighborhood. The survey could be the first step toward including the area, or some of the structures in it, in the National Register of Historic Places.

Parts of the area were targeted for redevelopment - and possible demolition - in the Sasaki Plan, a study by Boston-based Sasaki Associates Inc. The plan, which has not been officially adopted by the City Council, suggests extending Elm Street to College Avenue and turning the east end, which is within the survey area, into a parklike area.

In the interest of identifying historic properties in the area, the city's Historic Preservation Commission initiated the review by encouraging city staff to apply for a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office to fund it, city planner Scott Hanson said. The grant will cover $5,700, or 60 percent, of the $9,500 the survey will cost, and the city will pay the remaining 40 percent.

The consultants, Ruth Keenoy of St. Louis and Terri Foley of Cape Girardeau, started the survey Wednesday but could only drive through the neighborhood because of rain. On Thursday, they'll walk through the neighborhood to evaluate how the historic properties have been maintained and take photos of the properties.

They will also research the area's history by looking at old newspapers and maps and visiting historical societies and libraries.

Keenoy isn't new to Columbia. In 2005, she conducted a similar study of the Garth's Addition area, which was bounded by West Ash Street to the north, West Boulevard to the west, West Broadway to the south and McBaine Avenue to the east.

Only four people attended a meeting Wednesday night where consultants Foley and Keenoy explained the process of conducting the survey. City staff sent letters to all of the property owners in the area, but many of the people who live in the area are renters, Hanson said.

"It's not a typical meeting where you have a lot of single-family residences," Keenoy said.

The consultants will hold another meeting after the survey is conducted to show the results, including photos of notable buildings and information they found on the history of the neighborhood.

Keenoy said neither she nor Foley would make a recommendation on the Elm Street extension.

"We don't have an idea or preference for what is going to happen," she said.

Applying for the National Register of Historic Places is typically initiated by the owners of a property, Hanson said.

Columbia already has a number of locations on the register. Columbia's East Campus neighborhood was added in 1996. A number of other buildings throughout the city are also included, as well as a commercial district on North Ninth Street and the Francis Quadrangle Historic District at MU.

Keenoy said it wasn't likely the entire area could apply to be a historic district because many of the buildings have been altered and because of the Hitt Street Garage and towering apartment buildings nearby. However, she said areas within the neighborhood and individual structures could still be eligible.


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