COLUMBIA — In meetings starting this week, Columbia residents can offer input on a project to revitalize two areas at the east and west ends of downtown Columbia.
With guidance from St. Louis-based H3 Studio, Inc., the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council hopes to redevelop the Broadway-Providence Road intersection and the North Village arts district.
The word "charrette" has its origins in the French word for "wagon." Early 19th-century architecture students were known to work on projects up to the last minute, when carts would come around to collect their work for grading.
In its current usage, charrette refers to a planning procedure in design work that involves multiple brainstorming sessions and speedy project decisions.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Meetings to give input on the appearance and use of two areas downtown
WHEN: kickoff begins Thursday; 5-day charette runs June 21 through June 25. Final review will be July 5 and 6. See the full schedule.
WHERE: Stakeholder and focus group meetings at the Berry Building, 1025 E. Walnut. Public lectures and meetings will be in Delany Hall and the Lee Room at Columbia College.
"Those locations operate as gateways and endpoints to the downtown area," John Hoal said. Hoal is one of the founders of H3 Studio and specializes in urban design, architecture and community-based planning in several locations throughout the United States and Southern Africa.
After more than a year of planning by the leadership council, the process will begin with stakeholder meetings on Thursday and a public information session on Friday. It will culminate in a short, intensive planning period, referred to as a "charrette," from June 21 to 25.
"People dedicate a couple of days or weeks to make sure that their views are adequately expressed," said Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine.
Bryan Robinson, H3 Studio project manager, said this approach engages the most important and active minds in the community.
"The city is incredibly engaged and excited," Robinson said. "This is not just a typical planning exercise to them."
Developers, property owners, members of boards and commissions, downtown institutions and city council members are all invited to be part of the process.
All neighborhood association leaders have also been invited; 11 neighborhoods touch the downtown border.
"We'd certainly like to get their input into future development because they are most impacted in terms of being physically part of the downtown core," St. Romaine said.
"The District belongs to everybody. Whether you're a resident of Benton-Stephens or a resident of Thornbrook, everyone comes downtown at some time, whether to eat dinner or pay bills."
The charrette will be broken into two separate weeks of planning in June, which will help accommodate stakeholders' summer plans.
"We know for sure we're not going to get 100 percent of people, but that does not mean they won't be spoken with," St. Romaine said.
Randy Gray, leadership council chairman, said H3 Studio's diverse team and broad experience — which includes projects in large urban neighborhoods in Omaha and New Orleans, and projects in mid-size communities in Missouri and Illinois — were compatible with Columbia's needs.
"People talk about ideas and possibilities all the time, but H3 will help turn ideas into pictures," Gray said. "It makes it a lot simpler."
After stakeholder meetings on Thursday, H3 Studio plans to give a presentation to the public on Friday in Lee Hall at Columbia College. The firm also plans to lead a workshop to talk about the challenges downtown areas face and to share their experiences with other projects, St. Romaine said.
"Some streets are vibrant and well-used, while many are not, and the city has major institutions and great businesses all around downtown," Hoal said. "There's a lot to build upon. We want to help raise that bar so that the existing vibrancy can extend throughout downtown."
Robinson compared the project in Columbia to that in Lafayette Square in St. Louis, another H3 Studio endeavor.
"Urban design is a collision of architectural components — what developments look like, landscaping strategies, trail way connections," Robinson said. "These disciplines come together to improve the quality of space."
The public may give input on final plans on Friday, June 25, at Dulany Hall at Columbia College. H3 aims to reveal a final draft on Monday, July 5.
"The public will be able to see an end result within a month or month and a half," Gray said. "We'll have a lot of visual examples based on input from residents and stakeholders."