Some North Village Arts District board members hope to use Ameren site

Wednesday, September 25, 2013 | 12:07 p.m. CDT; updated 8:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 26, 2013

COLUMBIA — Some members of the North Village Arts District board have big dreams for the farmers market in their neighborhood.

They've had conversations about using the property at 210 Orr St., which Ameren Missouri plans to put up for sale after cleaning it up, as a location for the North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market.

Jake Davis, chairman of the district board and owner of the Root Cellar, said he hopes that the city will buy the Ameren Missouri property to use it as a "center point" for the neighborhood. The district board hasn't drawn up formal plans, but he envisions green space, permanent art displays and a new location for the farmers market on the lot.

The property needs to be cleaned up before it can change hands, said Mike Holman, director of Missouri gas operations at Ameren Missouri. The site will be available for sale in about one and a half or two years, after a clean-up process of about a year. The building currently on the site will be demolished as part of the cleanup.

"The sooner we get something new established at the property, the better it is for that neighborhood," Holman said.

The city has the right of first refusal to the property, according to the city's website. That means the city has the option to buy the property before it's offered to developers.

The Columbia City Council established the right of first refusal as part of its downtown vision statement, which seeks to increase the vibrancy of the area.

Davis hopes the city will buy the property and offer its use as a neighborhood space, but he speculated that several private buyers might be interested.

Patrick Zenner, development services manager for the city, said he isn't aware of formal plans for the Ameren site. However, the city has considered redeveloping the nearby Boone County Lumber Co. property at 1100 Rogers St.

"Previous discussions have been held regarding the redevelopment of the lumber yard property," Zenner said. "That space could potentially be redeveloped in combination with the Ameren property."

The North Village Arts District Farmers and Artisans Market is now hosted on Sundays at Wabash Station, 126 N. Tenth St. The Wabash Station location comes with restrictions, however.

"The bus station has been wonderful," Davis said. "But the space does limit the amount of vendors because you still need to allow for bus parking." 

Adam Saunders, the community and advocacy coordinator for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said the use of the Ameren site as a home for the market would be a positive addition to the North Village Arts District.

"I am very excited about the prospect of a better community use for that downtown block," he said in an email.

Some members of the North Village Arts District Board want to turn the lot at 210 Orr St. into a community art space for North Village Arts District. Ameren Missouri currently owns the lot and plans to put it up for sale after cleaning it up. The district board would move the farmers market to the lot, along with permanent art displays, but no formal plans have been made yet.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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