Plans for downtown Columbia 'gateways' underway

Tuesday, October 29, 2013 | 5:40 p.m. CDT; updated 12:03 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

COLUMBIA — A firm hired to come up with ideas for "gateways" into downtown Columbia shared images of iconic international sculptures to spark ideas.

Russ Volmert of St. Louis-based Arcturis showed downtown leaders pictures of the I Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the Animals Always sculpture at the St. Louis Zoo. He even included a 3-D sketch of Broadway for people to draw their ideas on.

The Downtown Community Improvement District selected Arcturis, a St. Louis-based company, to design gateways at four entrances to downtown — a topic of conversation since the 1990s.

Planners aren't using the word "gateways" literally — the conversation with consultants Friday focused on sculptures, public art and landscaping.

Arcturis has worked on projects such as the City Garden and the Old Post Office Plaza in St. Louis. The City Garden is a sculpture garden on 2.9 acres, and the fountains there have become a gathering place for families. Volmert, chief planner for the firm, said one aspect of a successful landmark is the community's interactions with it.

"If the public interacts with it, it builds a sense of ownership," he said.

Carrie Gartner, director of the Downtown Community Improvement District, said she was impressed with the company's experience in downtown areas and said the firm had "a really good art component."

Gartner said using sculpture, writing and public art to highlight downtown structures are possibilities. "How it comes together is part of the process," she said.

The gateways would be built at the east and west ends of downtown on Broadway. Two of the options for the north and south gateways are at Tenth Street near Columbia College and Ninth Street near MU. The locations of the gateways will be determined after Arcturis' designers survey the area.

The team will try to engage the community through social media and public meetings. The public would be able to vote on three designs and make suggestions to Arcturis, and the firm wants to include the college students in the process. A committee of the Downtown Community Improvement District intends to present its prospective plans at the end of January or early February.

Arcturis representatives said their goal was to establish and strengthen Columbia's identity as well as the Broadway entrances to downtown. Volmert said the gateways would be more than a sign or a piece of sculpture and would help with downtown's economic development.

"It is not to just make the streets look better, but to establish the identity that sustains the economy downtown," Volmert said. "If you do an investment in the public realm, it does help to attract investment dollars."

Committee members discussed Columbia's identity. Gartner cited a community of creators that includes artists, breweries, coffee roasters and colleges. Clyde Ruffin brought up the history of blacks in Columbia — there were demarcation plans in the 1930s to make Broadway the segregation line. And Adam Dushoff said he did not feel that Columbia needed to have a literal arch but should have more of a sculpture.

Consulting with Arcturis cost $44,000 and is funded by a special sales tax for downtown improvements. The committee hopes to apply for the ArtPlace America grant opportunity and other grants to finance the actual gateway projects.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.

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John Schultz October 30, 2013 | 12:10 a.m.

Ridiculous. I would say more, but I don't need heartburn when I head to bed.

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Ellis Smith October 30, 2013 | 8:11 a.m.


I repeat, a camel is just a horse that was designed by committee. What you're apt to get there in Columbia is a "heffalump" (Christopher Robin's initial attempt to say "elephant," found in A. A. Milne's classic "Winnie the Pooh"). One of the principals in Milne's "Pooh" books is a tiger. :)

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