COLUMBIA — Residents don't have to look much farther than their feet to notice differences in downtown sidewalks.
A decorative sidewalk design with trees and other greenery in place on two stretches of Broadway is being eyed as a model for other sidewalk work on the street and possibly elsewhere downtown.
The Downtown Community Improvement District Board is encouraging more use of a sidewalk standard that parallels the designs on Broadway in front of the Howard and Gentry buildings and between Eighth and Ninth streets, Carrie Gartner, executive director of the district, said.
Before new sidewalks were installed about a year ago, those areas were crumbling, Gartner said.
"The block between Eighth and Ninth was one of the worst blocks along Broadway in terms of deterioration," assistant city manager Tony St. Romaine said. The block also needed rewiring of the water supply, he said, so the streets were going to be dug up anyway.
"We thought we ought to start adopting a uniform standard for sidewalks for at least some of downtown," he said.
The new sidewalk layouts allow for the planting of more trees and shrubs, which will make downtown more attractive, Gartner said.
"The new standard incorporates brick pavers and more trees, which adds a lot to the overall feel and sense of downtown that we're looking for," St. Romaine said.
The focus for now is on Broadway because it is a crucial part of downtown, Gartner said.
"Part of our goal is to make Broadway a little bit special, you know, since it is our main street."
Backers of the new design understand that it will take some time to complete.
"We understand that nobody has money just to rip up streets," Gartner said. "Broadway is not going to look like this overnight, not even in a year. It's definitely a long-term project."
St. Romaine said the cost of the new design would run about 15 percent higher than the current standard of just pouring concrete.
Both businesses and the city pay for sidewalk replacement if they agree there are portions to be replaced, St. Romaine said.
"We have a 50-50 cost-share policy."
The city has received input from organizations such as the Downtown Leadership Council and the Downtown Community Improvement District Board, St. Romaine said.
The majority of the input has been making the sidewalks more walkable and pedestrian-friendly will add to the downtown area, St. Romaine said.
"Now what we are doing is presenting this recommendation to council, which gives the public the opportunity to weigh in to see whether it's something they want," St. Romaine said.
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