Charrette participants express interest in enhancing entrance to downtown

Monday, June 21, 2010 | 11:06 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Participants in Monday evening's charrette meeting expressed particular preferences for H3 Studio's proposals to include features such as hotels, planned green space and a possible hotel convention center in a facelift for downtown.

This was the first public meeting since the initial round of brainstorming and design sessions organized by the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council. The urban planning firm used suggestions from stakeholders and the public to create three design options for each of the two areas targeted for renovation.

"We're going to take the aspirations of the community and be quite pragmatic about where they could occur in each one of these nodes," said John Hoal, H3 studio founder.

More residential buildings, green space and pedestrian-friendly areas were incorporated into H3's downtown designs.

Options for the North Village Arts District included:

  • Improving safety concerns at College Avenue.
  • Developing hotel areas as major entrances to downtown.
  • Adding residential housing along Walnut Street toward College Avenue.
  • Integrating Columbia College into the downtown area with streetscape improvements along Tenth Street to Broadway.
  • Creating a grid of streets in the Park Avenue/Rogers Street area.
  • Extending Elm Street to College Avenue.

Options for the Broadway-Providence Road intersection included:

  • Improving wayfinding along Providence by using signs to highlight multiple entrances to downtown.
  • Incorporating attractive landscaping along streets and in medians for better stormwater management along Providence Road.
  • Enhancing history near Flat Branch Creek and the cemetery by possibly adding museums, artwork and educational displays.
  • Building a hotel convention center on the southwest corner of the intersection.

The firm presented  its findings and then invited participants to spend about 35 minutes weighing in with their ideas.

"To hear a cross-section of the community respond to ideas was very helpful," said Dianne Lynch, president of Stephens College. Part of the renovations could take place near the campus at the intersection of Broadway and College Avenue.

About 30 people leaned across tables to mark up maps and document ideas. They addressed practical issues, such as accommodating pedestrian walkways, public transit and parking garages.

They also discussed concepts: Some wanted to highlight the District's civil rights history, and others saw a need for an educational process to pitch certain plans to the public.

"The community voice is reflecting a deep respect for the history, values and aspirations of the community, from ways we address historically sacred ground to the way we use energy," Lynch said.

Nick Peckham, former chair of the Downtown Columbia Leadership Council, cited the city's projected population for the next 30 years, asking if these plans were as good as it gets for downtown.

"What we need is 'option D' that addresses more people," he said at the end of the meeting.

The public can visit H3 consultants from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. this week at the Berry Building on 1025 E. Walnut St. The firm will incorporate ideas from Monday's meeting and will present a preliminary draft to the public at the Berry Building at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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