COLUMBIA — Renovations to the Boone County Courthouse Plaza will begin Friday to make the space more welcoming, green and cost effective.
The renovation plan, totaling $828,247, will include significant construction activity and will result in restricted access to the Courthouse Square area until November, said Michele Hall, Boone County Commission public information officer.
The construction will result in the following access restrictions:
- Access to the courthouse square and the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center from Walnut Street will be completely blocked.
- The sidewalk to the south of the square on Walnut Street will be closed.
- The sidewalk on the north side of the square will be closed, except for a sidewalk leading up to the west entrance of the government center via Ash Street.
- The east entrance to the government center on Ninth Street will remain open.
- The alleyway between Bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar and the government center will be closed to vehicle traffic.
Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said construction is anticipated to finish on Nov. 11 before Veterans Day so that members of MU Army ROTC can continue the tradition of a 24-hour walk in front of the Veterans Memorial.
The project, funded by the half-cent sales tax, will include tearing up large amounts of concrete and sidewalks in the square, building a new irrigation and drainage system, taking down the wall behind the courthouse's columns, removing current lighting fixtures and moving dirt to reshape the area.
Miller said the square is the northern-most end of the historic Avenue of the Columns and these renovations will fit the overall goal of beautifying the avenue.
"We want it more like a park instead of just all concrete," Miller said.
The plaza will now include a stage in front of the current amphitheater steps, seating areas and tables next to the courthouse annex for employees to sit and eat lunch outside and old-fashioned hook lamp posts.
Miller said a major concern of the square was removing concrete that has continued to split over the years from harsh weather conditions and the use of chemicals for snow and ice removal. Remaining concrete will be sealed to prevent further cracking.
"We want it to be put in a way that is most successful from a low-maintenance standpoint," Miller said.
The circular fountain in front of the government center, which hasn't been turned on in years, will be removed. The "River of Life" linear fountain on the east side of the plaza will also be replaced with a planter. The square will no longer include water features due to high maintenance costs.
"It’s been pretty ugly," Miller said. "It just does not function the way it was intended to function and that’s not good use of tax payers' dollars if it just doesn’t work the way it is supposed to."
The wide sidewalk alongside Ash Street will be split into two walkways with a native plant garden between the two. The square will include more plant life then before.
Miller said representatives from the courthouse, government center, the Downtown Community Improvement District, the Avenue of the Columns Committee and other key staff began renovation discussions during springtime. The committee sent surveys to downtown county workers for their suggestions on what they wanted to see happen with the area.
"We really reached out very broadly about what we were trying to do," Miller said.
Rost Inc., A Civil Group and Little Dixie Construction developed the final design for the plaza and will be in charge of the changes.