Eighth Street plan is ready for action

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:01 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One unified, vibrant street, from columns to columns.

That’s the goal of the Historic Avenue of the Columns Committee, a group that has been trying to revitalize the downtown stretch of Eighth Street, from MU to the county courthouse, for years.

Now a local business has added its own plan to the effort. First National Bank, which sits on the corner of Broadway and Eighth Street, wants to work with the Columbia City Council and the revitalization committee to move development forward. The Eighth Street project has been gestating since 1991. That year, a committee was formed to beautify Eighth Street, but the group was sidetracked by a related undertaking when it spearheaded the effort to build the public square in front of the courthouse. The square was completed in 1997, and the committee re-formed in 2000 with many of the same members. Over the next five years, a plan for Eighth Street was developed with input from the community and the help of architectural firm Jeffrey L. Bruce & Co.

On Monday, Mary Wilkerson, Historic Avenue of the Columns Committee chair, presented City Council members the result of those years of effort, a final draft of the committee’s master plan. The stated goals are beautification, commemoration and economic development.

Afterward, Kip Goodman of First National Bank introduced Robbie Price and Shelley Simon, architects from Simon Oswald Associates, who presented First National Bank’s plan.

The bank wants to expand on a 1999 right of use agreement that was granted for various improvements around the bank, including the colorful mosaic benches that now line the street.

“They’re looking to incorporate more landscaping, more design features that will enhance the vibrancy of Eighth Street and go hand in hand with the Avenue of the Columns design,” said Price. “Also, they look to be one of the founding contributors to the Avenue of the Columns master plan. They would like to be the lead in starting the program, and they would like to do it as early as this summer.”

Because Monday’s meeting was a City Council work session, no action was taken. However, Mayor Darwin Hindman said the project would add a lot to Columbia in the long run.

“I’m really happy to see this kind of activity going forward,” he said. “While we may chitchat about the details and be sure that you work it out with the Avenue of the Columns Committee … this is really heartening to see.”

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