Columbia downtown development plans revealed in preliminary draft

Friday, June 25, 2010 | 8:30 p.m. CDT; updated 7:18 p.m. CDT, Sunday, June 27, 2010

COLUMBIA — Plans for safe pedestrian crossings over Providence Road and College Avenue, a thousand or more new residential units and a better connection between downtown and nearby neighborhoods were revealed to the public on Friday night.

With historical research and market reports to guide them, H3 Studio turned ideas the public shared about the future of downtown into images of possible development.

“What we’re sharing with you today is not our work, but your work,” the urban design firm’s leader John Hoal told about 30 people who came to the public charrette meeting about the draft preferred plan.

Beginning with the North Village Arts District, Hoal scrolled through maps and photographs illustrating what the two nodes could become.

The firm suggested that the eastern downtown entrance rebrand itself into an arts and eco district comparable to Portland. They saw it as a social hub, including a media center, art studios, community gardens and a bike share program throughout downtown.

Proposed plans for the North Village Arts District included:

  • Medians and pedestrian-friendly crossing for an "urban boulevard" on College Avenue between Rogers Street and University Avenue. Hoal said the Missouri Department of Transportation, which maintains the street, is prepared to accept a new design.
  • Narrowing Tenth Street between Columbia College and Broadway would better connect the college and neighborhood to the commercial area for pedestrians.  It would be safer and more attractive to walk on it.
  • Although the Boone County Lumber Yard on Park Avenue has not committed to any plans, if it were to move out of the area, the city could restore a street grid system there, which would improve accessibility.
  • Instead of optimizing individual lots for stormwater, H3 suggested developing them at the neighborhood level. This would require cooperation among neighborhood developers.
  • Residential infill development would include more housing at the edges along College Avenue, creating a greater diversity of housing types and expanding Columbia College housing.

The Broadway/Providence Road intersection lacks housing, green space and a cohesive structure. H3 sought to solve this by highlighting space with good growth potential. They proposed:

  • An "urban boulevard" similar to the one suggested for College Avenue. This would encourage people to move into the downtown area through six different entrances along Providence Road.
  • Building up corners at the intersection would leverage public investment in the new parking structure and capitalize on the high traffic area. The design firm recommended building offices at the northeast corner and housing units on the southwest corner. A grocery store was also discussed.
  • Develop Flat Branch Park and Cherry Street as destinations. Using the street for restaurants and mixed-use residential development would create a more intimate experience from the park to 9th street. They could double the size of sidewalks and still have one traffic lane in each direction.
  • H3 also recommended connecting the cemetery as a historical park space by building roads there from Broadway.

The city paid H3 Studio $60,000 to create these plans. Downtown Leadership Council chair Randy Gray said it was worth it.

“The level of work they did and the level of detail they provided is already greater than $60,000,” he said.

The firm will spend the next two weeks working on a final draft of these plans. They will present the results at the city council meeting on July 6. The leadership council will update its charrette page with more information from this weeks meetings as it becomes available.

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