Downtown makeover in the works

The Special Business District explores options to transform Broadway’s look.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:22 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A downtown Broadway, lined with lush trees and clad with colorful, business-specific awnings, is envisioned by store owners and city officials.

While the removal of the concrete canopies is already under way, the push to transform downtown Columbia into a more aesthetically appealing center continues.

To flesh out its vision of Broadway, the Special Business District designated members Tuesday to explore options such as new street lamps and awnings.

“There’s an impetus on Broadway to see change,” said Karl Kruse, part of the nine-member Special Business District committee responsible for promoting business in the city and improving downtown.

However, businesses are reluctant to commit to a change without a clear plan for improvement, especially because the financial burden would fall on them with the absence of public money.

“The council was reticent about using public funds to take down the canopies,” said Carrie Gartner, director of the committee.

Although committee members looked to other cities like Chicago for design ideas, they envision Columbia’s look as unique, and improvements to downtown will not be limited to Broadway.“If we can really address the alleys and the rest of the district about cleanliness, about lighting,” said committee member Arnold Fagan, “I think those are areas that this board really needs to be working on.”

The improvements may follow the national trend of adding residential accommodations, said committee member Skip Walther. One long-term idea is to build six- to 12-story condominiums and housing developments downtown.

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