COLUMBIA — Boone County residents and visitors got a chance to see the new Boone County Courthouse Plaza on Friday after safety fences were removed shortly before noon.
"A lot of people have been having to walk around the fences," Brady Williams, landscape foreman for Rost Inc., said. "Now we are able to open it up and give it back to them."
Crew members were planting perennials, touching up mulch and cleaning concrete on the grounds throughout Friday. Williams described those tasks as "final detail work."
Rost crew member Jessica Vroman said she was helping plant perennials, including salvia, sedum and liriope.
"There's a huge variety of stuff all over the place," she said.
Recent sunny conditions, coupled with this summer's record drought, allowed crews to stay ahead of schedule on the project.
"The weather did cooperate quite a bit with us," Williams said. "We were fortunate."
Construction on the plaza began Aug. 3. The project was funded by money left over from recent renovations to the Roger B. Wilson Boone County Government Center, according to a previous Missourian report. The original cost estimate was $850,000, but the final cost was $824,000, Boone County Commission spokeswoman Michelle Hall said.
Along with the landscaping, the project included the relocation of war memorials, the creation of an amphitheater stage and the removal of a circular fountain in front of the government center that was never fully functional. The "River of Life" fountain that ran along part of the eastern edge of the plaza has been converted to a planter.
A few aspects of the courthouse plaza remain to be finished, including tables for the outdoor cafe area and signs that will direct people to county offices. An official grand opening is planned for April or May 2013, Hall said.
Two types of tables for the cafe area are being considered. One design features an 800-pound concrete and powder-coated steel tube frame, and the other is an 1,100-pound all-concrete design. Hall said the county is considering gray or "misty gray" colors. Both options would feature polished-and-ground concrete that appears to consist of smaller stones in a sea of gray.
"They both have a bit of red in them to bring out the color of the pavers they'll be sitting on," Hall said.
Gray hues for the tables are intended to blend with the natural rocks and the courthouse. Hall said a concern about the concrete/tube-frame design is that the smaller points of contact might stress the pavers beneath. Scratches, chipping and rust also are possible.
The all-concrete tables would require less maintenance, and their 300-pound weight advantage could deter vandalism. Additionally, the leg designs would disperse the table's weight. Both table designs would require annual sealing, Hall said.
On Friday, several local residents took advantage of the lunch hour to walk through the plaza, taking in the recently-planted crabapple and elm trees, colorful plants and new benches and light poles.
Jason Jorgensen, an employee in the county collector's office, said this was the first time he had fully viewed the plaza. He was sitting on a bench enjoying his lunch in the afternoon sun.
"It's a nice area to sit and relax a little bit," Jorgensen said.
Stacy Whittaker, who was visiting the government center, agreed. "It looks really nice, very recreational and environmental."
Joseph Kroon described the plaza's soothing effect. "It's got good feng shui."
Andy Burris, catering chef at the nearby Bleu Restaurant, has been watching the work progress over the past few months. "I think it's beautiful," he said.
Julie Hawley, and her 3-year-old son, David, also enjoyed their walk through the plaza.
"I noticed right away that it was pretty," Julie Hawley said.
Her son viewed the foliage and plants surrounding him with wide eyes.
"They are really growing," David said.
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.