Boone County Commission plans to beautify courthouse plaza

Sunday, February 19, 2012 | 7:38 p.m. CST; updated 7:51 p.m. CST, Sunday, February 19, 2012
There is cracking in the concrete and no water flowing in the fountain or waterway at the courthouse plaza.

COLUMBIA - The Boone County Commission is looking for ideas on how to make the courthouse plaza more attractive.

“This isn’t very welcoming,” Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller said. “It doesn’t say, 'Come to courthouse plaza.'"


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There are already some ideas for potential changes to the plaza near the Boone County Courthouse at 705 E. Walnut St., including less concrete, newer materials, an outdoor sound system, a retractable stage, better lighting and perhaps turning the fountain into a planter.

Miller said the commission is soliciting proposals, so it will be up to the landscape designer and his or her building partner to come up with the best ideas. Still, the commission is open to any suggestions the public might have on how to improve the plaza.

“I think that this kind of discussion will be good for any of the landscape engineers that might decide they want to look at this proposal,” Miller said. “And it’s going to hopefully go out about the middle of March, so having this discussion now is a good time to get people thinking about, ‘Oh, what would I do?’”

Currently, there are two inactive fountains in the plaza. Miller said the commission discussed removing one and potentially both.

“We cannot afford to maintain (the fountains),” Miller said. “They were costing us so much on maintenance in a tight economic time, it didn’t make sense for us to spend the taxpayers’ dollars. It’s a luxury more than a necessary item.”

Miller said ideally a solidified proposal would be finished by March, allowing the project to be completed by October.

In regard to an estimated cost breakdown, Miller said the commission is still working on budget maximums, but there are a few base requirements the commission has for the project:

  • Cost-effective: “It has to have low maintenance. That's our No. 1 priority for whatever we agree to do. It's got to be cost-effective," Miller said. 
  • Greenery: “There is not enough shade, so people don’t want to sit out there and eat lunch in the hot of the summer,” she said. 
  • Signage: “I want some signage that says ‘you’ve reached courthouse plaza,'” she said.

Carrie Gartner, director of The District, hopes for a more inviting gateway entrance to the courthouse plaza, similar to the entrance into MU on the other end of Eighth Street. She has been working with the Avenue of the Columns, whose goal is to improve Eighth Street.

"How do we make that kind of gateway into this public space that’s attractive, that’s landscaped and that’s welcoming?" Gartner said.

She is optimistic about the project.

“I think it’s a fantastic public space, and I think Karen has pulled together a group of people that will really help make it an even better space," Gartner said.

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Mike McMillen February 20, 2012 | 4:23 p.m.

A couple of plastic ferns and a tarp ought to do it.

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