COLUMBIA — Chicago has "The Bean." St. Louis has "The Arch." Downtown Columbia may be on its way to having its own city gateway, thanks to Thursday's public input meeting.
The public was invited to the downtown offices of the Regional Economic Development Inc. to weigh in on three concept designs Thursday night. Between 20 and 40 people were in the room for the meeting, and conversation was always engaging and lively.
The city of Columbia and The District have teamed up with St. Louis architectural design firm Arcturis, Columbia civil engineering firm A Civil Group and St. Louis public art consulting firm Via Partnership to draft potential "gateway" markers for downtown Columbia.
The three concept themes presented by the collaborating firms were education, energy and "the hub."
- Education: pay homage to the town's three universities, as well as well-known Missourians involved in literature and the arts
- Energy: emulate the youthful, contemporary vibe of the city — a place people have marked down as somewhere they want to visit again
- The hub: a cultural center of not only the city of Columbia but also of Missouri in its entirety
The designs each incorporated illumination for nighttime viewing, pedestrian safety and a variety of structures and materials.
Photos of some of the designs can be seen on the Downtown Columbia Gateway Project Facebook page.
Green dot of approval
Each visitor was given a sticky green dot to "vote" for his or her favorite design. Comment sheets were also provided for input on the Gateway project and the city's identity.
Kristi Ray, Columbia Chamber of Commerce executive vice president, voted for the education concept.
"I love the colors that depict the three colleges," Ray said. "And it carries the theme of columns throughout the town."
Crystal Midkiff, executive director of Mustard Seed Fair Trade, was decidedly in favor of the hub.
"The other concepts, education and energy, can be incorporated into the hub concept," Midkiff said.
Midkiff said she liked the hub because it was a less concrete concept and allows for more artistic freedom.
"It can involve the entire District instead of just the gateways," Midkiff said.
Addison's owner and member of the Gateway Committee, Adam Dushoff, also voted for the hub.
"On my comment sheet, though, I described combining education and the hub," Dushoff said. "This is its first step outside of the committee, so nothing here will be exactly what's built."
A public survey will be shared Friday or Monday on the Facebook page so residents who were unable to come to the meeting can voice their opinions and suggestions.
The next step
Carrie Gartner, executive director of The District, was extremely pleased with the number of residents who showed up to the meeting.
"They've been asking questions, giving advice," she said. "We're really happy that our goals for this project match up with what people want to see."
Russ Volmert, director of planning for Arcturis, said the firms will use the feedback from the comment sheets, voting, the online survey and more meetings to formulate a final concept.
"That will be what is refined and presented," Volmert said. "This meeting is really to define the message."
A second public meeting will take place at the end of February. Residents can check for updates on the Downtown Columbia Gateway Project Facebook page.
Supervising editor is Elise Schmelzer.