COLUMBIA — The Courthouse Plaza is about to get a makeover, but it won't be cheap. The Boone County Commission is preparing to spend nearly $710,000 on a beautification project that will begin in August.
The commission could spend an additional $75,000 on options it is considering for the plaza. Rost Inc., a landscaping company, has drafted a landscaping design for the plaza.
County Counselor C.J. Dykhouse said the commission hopes to get a contract drawn up as soon as possible. Commissioners have nearly finished their plans for the area, which call for extensive landscaping with trees, shrubs, flowers and lighting. Much of the concrete portion of the plaza will be bulldozed.
"We are taking out a lot of concrete and making it greener and more welcoming," Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said.
Work on the south steps to Eighth Street should be finished by Veterans Day so the work won't interfere with memorial ceremonies.
The project calls for removing the circular fountain in front of the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center, which hasn't been turned on in years. The "River of Life" linear fountain that runs along the east side of the plaza will be converted into a planter.
Barriers around the columns will be removed in an attempt to make the area more inviting, Miller said. A new irrigation and drainage system will be installed. The plan also calls for a stage and electrical outlets for events. The existing amphitheater will remain the same except for some added turf and flower beds.
The county commission in mid-April sought proposals for beautifying the plaza. It then formed a committee of representatives from the courthouse, the government center, the District and the Avenue of the Columns Committee.
Miller said the commission also sent a survey to downtown county workers to get their opinions.
"We wanted the landscape designers to be able to suggest ways to meet the scope laid out in the (request for proposals) and not hamstring creativity," Miller said in an email. "We had two very nice proposals; each company shared their proposal with the whole committee."
The committee ultimately decided Rost was the best choice for the project.
The county created the pedestrian plaza in 1996 after building the county government center and closing a section of Eighth Street between Walnut and Ash streets. There have been problems over the years with the concrete cracking. Commissioners believe freezing and thawing and the use of chemicals for snow and ice removal are to blame. Plans call for sealing any remaining concrete to prevent more cracking.