Public voices opinions about downtown planning to H3 Studios

Friday, June 11, 2010 | 7:38 p.m. CDT; updated 10:24 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 16, 2010

*This article has been modified to clarify a comment by Glenn Rice.

COLUMBIA — Providence needs pedestrians.

This was one of many issues discussed at Friday's public meeting with H3 Studio. During the final meeting of the charrette preparation phase, discussion moved from the stakeholders to the public.

What's next?

  • June 21: Public meeting: 6 to 8 p.m., Dulany Hall, Columbia College
  • June 25:  Public meeting: 4 to 6 p.m., Dulany Hall, Columbia College
  • July 5: Public meeting: 7 to 9 p.m., location TBD, to be followed by a celebration.

Source: City of Columbia

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"You, as the community, are the mortar of the vision," John Hoal, one of H3's founders, said.

Armed with permanent markers and table-sized maps of the two downtown nodes — Broadway-Providence Road and Broadway-College Avenue — people voiced their issues and ideas about downtown.

The most common issues:

  • Providence Road is extremely difficult to cross and creates a barrier between pedestrians and downtown.
  • There are too many surface area parking lots.
  • Downtown lacks a city center and gathering space.
  • The area has no urban grocery store.

The most common ideas to improve the area:

  • De-emphasize the automobile and make the entire area more pedestrian friendly.
  • Increase residential areas by having fewer rentals and more permanent ownership of homes such as bungalows.
  • Unearth more of Flat Branch Creek to make the area greener.
  • Develop the old Osco-Druglot.

Glenn Rice, a former member of the Planning and Zoning Commission and an MU employee, said planning and implementing ideas for downtown won't happen overnight.*

"Downtowns and good places have to evolve," Rice said. "You don't just draw it on a map."

The next step of the plan is to determine whether or not these ideas are feasible. Hoal said the company will compile the public comments into a list to determine which issues have a consensus. Once they determine the most popular ideas, they'll test the options to see if they can work technically, he said.

"We try to find what is most pragmatic and most workable," Hoal said.

H3 will return for June 21 to 25 to share its findings with the public.

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Mark Foecking June 12, 2010 | 3:59 a.m.

"De-emphasize the automobile and make the entire area more pedestrian friendly."

Except downtown business owners know that pedestrians don't spend near as much money as drivers do. Since Americans don't seem to want to move more than a few hundred feet without driving something, owners know their customers will just go elsewhere that is more automobile friendly.

We could change all that, like every other oil-importing nation has. But no one has the political will to do it.


(Report Comment)
Glenn Rice June 12, 2010 | 4:06 p.m.

Whoa! I didn't find the meeting to be not productive. I'm a former member of the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, and in fact I'm likely the DLDC member who first mentioned charrettes as a potential tool for downtown planning. I fully support this process, and do NOT want to be mischaracterized as opposing it.

Maps are useful tools for visualization, analysis, and planning. There are other useful tools/strategies as well. I simply don't want to lose some of the positive outcomes of historically unplanned neighborhood evolution, just for something that looks good on paper. With strong public involvement, as I've seen already at this meeting and other community/area planning meetings (e.g. East Area Plan), Columbia can continue to keep what's good and improve on it.

(Report Comment)
Scott Swafford June 13, 2010 | 1:39 p.m.

Glenn, we've modified this story to clarify your position.

(Report Comment)

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