COLUMBIA — Boone County's war memorials will serve as a new focal point at the northern end of the Historic Avenue of the Columns when renovations to the Boone County Courthouse Plaza are finished. The work is scheduled to be done in time for Veterans Day on Nov. 12.
The memorials, each dedicated to those who served in past wars, will frame a new entrance to the plaza and sidewalks highlighted by trees and shrubs. The memorials were previously offset from the columns and partially obscured by a concrete wall.
The plaza renovation, which began in August, will also include the installation of historic-style brick surfaces, a cafe patio, a rose garden, a butterfly garden and a new stage facing the existing amphitheater seating, said Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller.
The idea of fixing up the plaza stemmed from problems such as broken concrete and fountains that didn't work as originally intended. County officials also decided the plaza could use more green space and landscaping to make it a more attractive gathering place, Miller said. To reduce maintenance, the new concrete will be sealed. An irrigation system also will be installed.
The $850,000 project is funded by money left over from recent work on the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center, according to the Courthouse Plaza Renovation page on the Boone County website.
A Civil Group did engineering work on the project, while Rost Inc. will oversee the site and build the stage, walls and brick areas. Little Dixie Construction is doing demolition and concrete work, Miller said.
Construction began Aug. 3 and continues from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Kevin Anson, landscape division manager with Rost, said the project is ahead of schedule, largely because of the weather. Crews have missed no days because of rain and have welcomed the break from this summer's heat wave.
Sod and bricks have been laid, and the memorials have been relocated. New sidewalks stretch from the memorial area to the north end of the courtyard, where demolition and construction work for the stage and cafe patio areas are scheduled to begin this month, according to the Courthouse Plaza Renovation website.
The Ash Street sidewalk and the government center's Walnut Street entrance have been closed during construction. The Walnut Street sidewalk in front of the columns reopened Wednesday. When demolition and construction begins on the north edge of the courtyard, the Ash Street entrance will close, and the Walnut Street entrance will reopen, Miller said.
Renovation work will create a public space that is "a lot more usable and a lot more welcoming," Miller said. She added that signs will be installed to direct visitors to various offices on the Boone County campus.
"I'm very excited about it," Miller said, "and I think everyone who walks through here is excited about it."
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