COLUMBIA — Missouri's new 46th House District encompasses some of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city. It's also home to some of Columbia's oldest and newest neighborhoods.
The 46th District includes much of Columbia's Fourth and Fifth wards, including the Old Southwest, Historic West Broadway, Greenbriar Trailridge and Copperstone neighborhoods. It also extends north to capture a section of the First Ward between Broadway and Business Loop 70, including the West Ash neighborhood and Worley Street Park.
It's a district that includes some of Columbia's most affluent neighborhoods and many of its burgeoning commercial areas. And one thing's for sure: A lot of the people who live in the district and are eligible to vote do so on a regular basis.
In the 2008 presidential election, for example, citizens of the Fourth and Fifth wards cast 20,258 votes, or 24 percent of all those cast in Boone County. Only small slices of those wards fall outside the 46th District.
“There is a very engaged citizen rate,” Fifth Ward Councilwoman Helen Anthony said. “They are very concerned with local issues.”
Republican Fred Berry and incumbent state Rep. Stephen Webber, a Democrat, are running to represent the area.
“I think it is a very upwardly mobile district,” Berry said. “There are a lot of business owners, and it’s an entrepreneurial district.”
One of the local businesses is Murry’s, a popular restaurant since 1985. Its dim lighting and occasional live jazz offer an intimate setting for happy hour cocktails or romantic dinners. MU student Patrick O'Mara, who lives in the Rock Quarry neighborhood, said Murry's is one of his favorite places.
“I am from Houston, so I needed a change of pace in college,” O’Mara said. “Murry’s is without a doubt the type of restaurant I would expect in a Midwestern college town like this. It just a fantastic place.”
O’Mara likes the mix of students and families that live in the 46th District.
“I personally believe this district is very special,” he said. “It is very unique in that it is made up of so many different people and places. Living in this area is great, and other than school, I hardly leave it. I have no reason to.”
O'Mara predicted Webber will be elected. “I definitely think this area will lean left because I’ve noticed that as a whole, students are more liberal than not,” he said.
The district also includes the Village of Cherry Hill, which spreads across 43 acres at the western fringe of Columbia near Scott Boulevard and Chapel Hill Road. Created in 1999, the neighborhood incorporates a mixed-use design comprising single-family homes and apartments as well as office and retail space and a commons area.
The Cherry Hill website says the village "adds the warmth and convenience of a small town to an energetic, diverse community. It’s a great place to work, to shop and to live.”
Realtor Don Ginsburg, who helped develop Cherry Hill, lives on its eastern edge. He said it's an enjoyable place.
“It’s full of middle-class homes filled with all different ages and backgrounds,” Ginsburg said. “There’s a real mix and diversity of people, but they all care about Columbia.”
Ginsburg said he is unsure whether the neighborhood will choose Berry or Webber.
“I have no idea which way it will lean in this election,” he said. “It is so diverse, so I really have no idea.”
Cherry Hill’s 15-acre town center includes many locally owned businesses, such as the restaurant Kostaki’s Pizzeria. During the Christmas season, the village attracts a lot of attention from visitors who come to see the Magic Tree.
The 46th District has seen tremendous commercial growth over the past few years, particularly toward its southern end. One new addition that's exciting to many residents is Shakespeare’s South on Peachtree Drive.
“Columbia is definitely growing fast,” Webber said. “Most of this growth is in the district, in the south. I grew up on Shakespeare’s. I’m glad they opened a new one in this district.”
Shakespeare’s employee Riley Cowing said people appreciate the new location.
“A lot of people are actually on the south side of town and are happy they don’t have to drive to the west side of town or downtown for Shakespeare’s anymore,” she said.
Cowing said commercial growth in the area is necessary to accommodate the growing population.
“The south side of town is growing and bringing a newer side of traditional aspects of the city,” she said. “Bringing a bigger Shakespeare’s out south brings the city’s loved pizza to residents on another side of town in a larger, more spacious venue.”
Cowing believes the district will show more support for Berry on Tuesday.
“On the south side of town, there are definitely a lot more families and older generations who support the conservative side,” she said.
Some of Columbia's oldest and most stately homes make up the Old Southwest and Historic West Broadway neighborhoods. Narrow streets and homes in close proximity to each other encourage folks to get to know one another, resident Hank Ottinger said.
“People know each other,” he said. “People aren’t just living in isolation like they often do with houses that face the street and often have decks that look out to backyards."
Ottinger, who has lived in the same home for 30 years, said the neighborhood is very stable and does not see a lot of change. He thinks that's a good thing.
“I think people who move in this neighborhood tend to stay in it,” he said. “When I look around at the houses in my immediate block or two, they don’t change occupants every couple of years. It certainly isn’t a very transitory neighborhood.”
Ottinger said he believes the neighborhood will vote for Webber because he has a history in the district.
“His family lives in the neighborhood,” he said. “He was raised here, went to school here. People know him.”
Anthony said residents of the district should be looking for a representative who understands issues involving growth.
“They are really interested in how Columbia is growing,” she said. “It is full of people who are concerned with economic development.” She believes Webber will prevail in the Fifth Ward and throughout the district.
“I think Stephen is a great representative for the city of Columbia,” she said. “He has been fighting the fight down in Jeff City to make sure Columbia is getting what it deserves. He fights for the right things.”
Berry hopes people will see his qualifications, and he agrees with Anthony that citizens in the district are impressively engaged.
“These people are very conscious of what’s going on both economically and politically,” he said. “They all have this common thread and want Missouri to be strong.”
Berry said he and his wife, Sherry Berry, make a conscious effort to spend money within the district. It's not hard, he said, given all the local businesses that call it home. His favorite dining destinations are Tequila, CC’s City Broiler and 44 Stone Public House.
Webber, for the past four years, has represented the 23rd District, whose boundaries overlap somewhat with the new 46th District. He said he's excited for a new challenge if elected.
“I think it is very typical Columbia,” he said of the district. “You can’t describe the district in any broad generalizations, but I do think it is very open-minded and independent about the issues. I’m really excited to see how they choose in this election.”
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.