DLC moves forward with urban design planning

Wednesday, June 24, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:31 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 24, 2009

COLUMBIA — After hours of research and discussion about the future of downtown, the Downtown Leadership Council has released an interim report that outlines the next steps toward a redevelopment of the central city.

The DLC created the report in response to the tasks assigned by City Council and is awaiting feedback from the council.

At its meeting Tuesday, the DLC discussed the report and its plans for an “urban design charrette,” a collaborative plan for improving and redeveloping downtown that would be assembled by designers, architects, city officials, residents and business owners.

The report states that consulting with downtown stakeholders is an integral part of the charrette.

“The careful selection of appropriate consultants and thorough ground work prior to the event results in an immensely successful process,” the report states.

The report, which can be found online, describes six tasks the City Council assigned to the DLC. The first task was to identify the boundaries of the downtown study area. The leadership council decided to nearly double the area that was studied as part of the city's Metro 2020 plan in the early 1990s.

The DLC studied in the entire area bounded by Business Loop 70 to the north, Garth Avenue to the west, Stewart Road/University Avenue to the south and Old 63 to the east.

Although the proposed boundaries do not include MU, leadership council members believe that “cooperation and continued communication with the University are vital to our success.”

Finally, the key recommendation of the DLC is that the city hire a consultant to conduct the urban design charrettes and identify "catalytic projects" that could set the wheels in motion for full-scale redevelopment.

Transforming downtown has been a hot topic in recent years and began in earnest with the work of the Sasaki Group, which in 2006 submitted a conceptual plan for the redevelopment of the southern half of downtown. That report was commissioned by the city, MU and Stephens College. It calls for eliminating blight, reducing surface parking and encouraging mixed-use developments five to eight stories tall. Specific proposals include a new MU performing arts center, a new museum for the Missouri State Historical Society and a hotel and convention center.

Meanwhile, members of the Special Business District Board of Directors have been moving forward with the formation of a community improvement district that would levy sales and/or property taxes to pay for projects that would beautify the area. And the city is considering whether to use tax-increment financing to encourage redevelopment. Thus far it has received applications from the owners of The Tiger Hotel and from two brothers who want to build a mixed-use development at Tenth and Locust streets that would include apartments, a grocery store and other uses.

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