COLUMBIA — In 2001, Sandy and James Groves moved to a home on East St. Charles Road to live in the country.
The Groves' slice of the country, though, is becoming more urbanized as new developments pop up in the area.
"It's really, really, really different now," Sandy Groves said. The land where Battle High School is taking shape used to be a cattle pasture. Where "beautiful woods" once stood behind the Groves' home there are now at least 25 duplexes.
That's no surprise. Columbia development services manager Pat Zenner said the city is poised to expand, particularly toward the east and the southwest. Areas most likely to see growth are those that already have infrastructure such as water, sewer and roads.
Some areas where growth is anticipated were targeted for development during the housing boom. They include neighborhoods such as Copperstone and Thornbrook in the southwest. The widening of Scott Boulevard and the construction of an elementary school in the area likely will speed growth in those areas.
Columbia was poised to grow eastward even before Columbia Public Schools began building Battle High School, Zenner said, noting that the school's location also will pull development farther north. The pattern will be similar to what south Columbia saw after Rock Bridge High School was built.
Mike McClung of Uptown Investments, which owns about 60 acres east of Battle High, said there are no immediate plans to develop the property. The land was platted with the county at the same time Copper Creek was developed in 1998, but the plat has since expired. McClung said residential would be the best use of the property.
Tom Mendenhall of North Battleground LLC, which owns 36 acres about three blocks east of Battle High, said the group is looking to develop a subdivision of single-family homes. Mendenhall said the sewer system extension to the high school will spark development.
"You can follow the development the way the sewers are going," he said.
Robert Schwarz of the urban planning company RSP and Associates echoed Zenner, saying that the infrastructure that comes with a school spawns development but that the economy and property owners control the pace of that growth.
The city released a draft of Columbia Imagined, a new comprehensive plan intended to guide development, earlier this year. Zenner said the plan will set the tone for how the city looks at development.
The draft plan indicates the city has approximately 5,100 acres of developable land complete with infrastructure, Zenner said. It includes two models of projected growth. The Columbia Area Transportation Study Organization model, which is based on historical trends, anticipates the metro area will need to bring in another 937 acres to accommodate development through 2030. The Show-Me model developed by MU, however, predicts the available 5,100 acres will suffice.
The two models also differ on housing needs: The CATSO model suggests the city will need 16,363 new housing units; the Show-Me model suggests 11,486 will be enough.
The CATSO model projects the city's population will be 146,134 in 2030, the Show-Me model predicts a population of 131,797. Zenner said the real number probably will fall in the middle.
The Groves, who used to live down the road from their current home, didn't think they'd end up living in a city-like environment. They're not opposed to growth, but they and their neighbors do worry about traffic, particularly if St. Charles Road isn't widened.
“It may be a good thing,” Groves said of the growth. “So…we’re hoping.”
Schwarz said it can take time for streets to catch up with development. He thinks that will be the case around Battle High School. The school district upgraded St. Charles Road, but some people might not be satisfied, Zenner said.
Willa Adelstein said she and her husband, Eddie, moved to the southwest corner of the city more than 40 years ago because he wanted to live in the country. They're not in the country anymore.
"It's ridiculous," she said of the growth the area has seen. Adelstein said that the city allows developers to build house after house without planning for the growth. She added that Route K is a disaster. Her nine-mile drive to work down Route K used to take her 20 minutes. Now it takes 45, she said.
Zenner acknowledged that the "city is playing catch up" on roads but said the city's capital improvement plan outlines the road work that has to be done once money becomes available.
Downtown also could see more growth depending on student population trends, Zenner said. But that won't match the level of growth on the periphery unless the city emphasizes infill development, he said.
That would require the creation of cost-effective opportunities for people to buy into and redevelop areas in and around downtown, he said.
"The one thing that lacks in the downtown is we don't have a grocery store in close proximity,” Zenner said. “You've got to get on public transit to get to it, or you have to have a car. The one thing that the plan promotes is a more walkable environment."
To accomplish that, the city would need to encourage different types of commercial development downtown.
"We can't control what the free market will do," Zenner said. "We can only create the opportunities to be able to allow it to happen."
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