COLUMBIA — Downtown living is looking up.
“You can’t create land downtown,” Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said. “You can’t make it any bigger. It has to be multistory.”
Urban housing options are growing as more apartment buildings and lofts are developed in The District.
Certain areas downtown are being “highly underutilized,” St. Romaine said. Multistory development would be a good economic use of space, he said.
The District has about 320 residents and 160 apartments in the special business district, according to estimates done by The District during the 2010 summer. The District came to this conclusion by assuming two people lived in each downtown apartment. The numbers jump to 368 residents and 172 apartments once the Brookside Downtown units are added.
The special business district is roughly the area between Providence Road and College Avenue and Rogers and Elm streets.
Columbia has fewer downtown residences than similar-sized towns such as Springfield, said Carrie Gartner, executive director for The District. The data comes from an analysis of other urban communities done by Brad Segal, a consultant hired by The District two years ago.
“Now the future is bigger with development,” Gartner said. “We are one of the few downtowns that has more of a demand than a supply.”
She said downtown living attracts “college students, young professionals, empty nesters and people who really like being in the center of things.”
“We don’t have enough (urban housing) to meet the demands,” Gartner said.
A 20-year plan
In June, the city held stakeholder meetings to discuss development plans for downtown. Property owners, neighborhood associations, college and university officials and others made suggestions about what the greater downtown area should look like in 20 years, St. Romaine said.
“Out of that planning, arose a vision,” St. Romaine said. “We felt that Columbia certainly has an unmet demand for good quality downtown housing.”
H3 Studio, a consulting group hired by the city, facilitated the meetings over five days. Collectively, these meetings made up the Downtown Columbia Planning Charrette. H3 Studio then put together a report that synthesized the meetings.
The final version of that report will be presented at the Oct. 18 city council meeting. It will include plans to develop city streets and sidewalks, landscaping recommendations and a new hotel at the Regency Hotel site, as well.
The H3 study focused on two locations: the intersection of Broadway and Providence Road and the North Village Arts District. The arts district is roughly the area between College Avenue and Tenth Street and Broadway and Rogers Street.
The H3 plans call for more mixed-use facilities that will serve both commercial and residential interests. St. Romaine said this would enable “immediate impact” on the businesses downtown.
“If you look at other cities like St. Louis and Kansas City, the conversion of their retail spaces for loft living has worked well for them,” St. Romaine said. “We’ve got to start building up, and that’s certainly starting to occur.”
Bob Grove and Rodney Burlingame, partners of the newly formed Urban Properties LLC, announced plans in mid-September to turn 904 Broadway into a mixed use building with two retail space and six luxury, loft-style apartments.
“We are making this more of a property for professionals and husbands and wives,” Grove said.
Intended to capitalize on the demand for downtown housing, each loft is equipped with built-in cabinets, granite counter tops, in-unit laundry and a mix of ceramic tile, wool carpet and hardwood flooring, according to an e-mail from Grove Construction.
Grove construction began construction in mid-September.
“The potential is greater for high return (downtown),” Burlingame said. “We want to revitalize the downtown area.
Burlingame plans to begin leasing the retail and apartment spaces in early spring.
Tenth Street development
Brookside Downtown opened its doors in August. The four-story apartment building is located at 120 S. Tenth St., on the corner of Tenth and Locust streets.
“It’s a nice addition to Tenth Street,” Gartner said. “It fits very nicely with the block.”
Gartner said new residents in The District bring more people downtown for shopping and dining, and, with the slow economy, people are happy to see Tenth Street being developed.
“People like living downtown, being in the middle of things, being close to services, restaurants and shops," Gartner said.
Brookside Downtown has 12 units, according to blue prints filed with the city's Protective Inspection Department.
Jeremy Elson, 22, a senior at MU, chose Brookside Downtown because it's close to campus and downtown.
“I really like living here," Elson said in an e-mail. “It saves me from a significant amount of commuting.”
Lauren Komeshak, Elson's roommate and a senior at MU, said Brookside Downtown fits in well with the community.
“I think it's fitting in well downtown,” Lauren Komeshak, said. “It offers a more urban living environment to Columbia.”
Brookside Downtown, which is owned by Nathan and Jon Odle, has four bedroom, four bathroom, loft-style apartments. At $699 per bedroom, including the cost of utilities, these apartments include stainless steel appliances, granite counter tops and balconies, as well as cable, Internet and washer and dryer units.