COLUMBIA — Downtown Columbia is in the process of getting a makeover thanks to the Downtown Community Improvement District and private MU donors.
After reviewing proposals and resumes from eight companies, the improvement district has narrowed its search for a gateway project designer to three companies, Brent Gardner, chair of the Downtown Leadership Council, said at a meeting Tuesday night.
"There are three good choices and two exceptional choices," Gardner said.
One of the finalists is a local company, while the others are from St. Louis and Omaha, Neb.
The purpose of the gateway project is to remodel and embellish the entrances into downtown to promote visitor satisfaction. Funding for the project is provided by a half-cent sales tax on downtown purchases that voters approved in 2011. This will be one of the improvement district's first beautification projects since the sales tax was approved.
Locations for the improvement district's gateways have not been chosen.
"What the designer comes up with will determine where (the gateways) go," Gardner said.
Possible locations include the intersection of Broadway and Waugh Street, Broadway and Providence Road, Ninth Street near Shakespeare's Pizza or Tenth Street heading downtown from Columbia College.
"If you're going to design gateways for downtown, they need to be located downtown," Downtown Leadership Councilcq board member Randy Graycq said.
Gardner said he is bothered by the continual use of the word 'district' in this project.
"I think there's probably 20 people that call downtown The District," Gardner said, with a laugh. "People that don't work or live in The District I don't think use that word, so if the gateway ends up saying welcome to The District, I'm not sure that we have accomplished a lot."
The new gateways could be anything from columns with lights, to banners or fountains. Nothing specific has been proposed for the project, Gardner said, but the companies were given a chance to show off their creative side.
Improvement district board member Deb Sheals said the designers who have tailored community-specific projects in their past work were especially impressive.
The gateways "should be designed specifically for Columbia," Sheals said.
Gardner said costs for the gateway project have not been discussed.
MU entrances will also receive improvements after limestone signs are built and installed at two Stadium Boulevard intersections and the intersection of College and University avenues.
Donors of the new signs include Trittenbach Construction, the company that has built the Brookside Apartments buildings throughout downtown, as well as K&S Associates of St. Louis and River City Construction of Central Missouri. The new signs are expected to be complete in time for the beginning of the fall semester, according to a MU news release.
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