Preliminary plans unveiled for downtown Columbia

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 | 8:46 p.m. CDT; updated 4:33 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 10, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia residents attended another charrette Wednesday night at the unfinished Berry Building and saw preliminary proposals for changes to Columbia's downtown.

The charrette — a public planning meeting — was the latest in a series of community discussions being held by H3 Studio, a design firm hired by the city of Columbia to present a plan for revitalizing the North Village Arts District and the intersection of Providence and Broadway.

The public mingled in the front room and gazed at the unfinished plans showing proposed changes to downtown. The plans were a result of the preferences expressed by Columbia residents and business owners Monday night, when they were allowed to mark up the maps.

"No one has said we're completely on the wrong track," H3 Studio founder John Hoal said.

This time, charrette participants were not allowed to draw on the maps, but they were encouraged to share their likes and dislikes of the proposed plans. Their feedback will be considered and implemented before the final meeting of phase two Friday evening.

The proposed mapped changes for the North Village Arts District included:

  • Shifting Waugh Avenue to accommodate housing development and public parking
  • Developing the area around Stephens College quadrangle as a community gathering place
  • Removing Short Street and renovating and expanding the Regency Hotel
  • Changing the existing pavement to brick on areas of Broadway
  • Extending St. Joseph and St. James streets to Rogers Street
  • Extending Orr Street to Rangeline Street
  • Building a park on the AmerenUE site

The proposed changes for the Broadway-Providence intersection included:

  • Developing Flat Branch Creek as a "green area" along Providence Road
  • Placing community gardens and fruit trees along Park Avenue
  • Reducing traffic on Providence by creating multiple entrances to downtown with signs directing visitors to areas of interest
  • Development of the Osco-Drug parking lot

Several options for the Osco-Drug lot, which is vacant, included building condominiums with built-in shops, creating a convention center and hotel complex and adding more offices, charrette coordinator Tim Busse said.

Reaction to the proposals was generally positive and attendees seemed to agree the plan was going in the right direction, but some expressed concern.

Mara Aruguete and Chip Gubera have lived on Hubbell Street for 12 years and were worried about the implications of a busier downtown.

"With more people comes more traffic, more trash," Aruguete said. 

Both Aruguete and Gubera were optimistic about most of the changes and said they will just have to wait and see what happens.

Hoal said the plans were hypothetical and based 10 to 20 years in the future.

"We know things will change and be adjusted as we move forward," Hoal said.

A more finalized draft of the plan is scheduled to be revealed at a public meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday at Dulany Hall at Columbia College.

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