District Village adds lot to plans

The developers buy parking lot from city to expand plans for housing and commercial space.
Thursday, October 5, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 6:41 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

By purchasing a city-owned parking lot, Lynn and Jacqueline Miller are one step closer to acquiring the land they need to develop their “District Village.”

The purchase of the parking lot on the east side of Tenth Street between Locust and Elm streets will expand the scope of their plans to build a mixed-use building inspired by West Village in Dallas.

West Village is billed as a “hip” development that enhances and encourages a pedestrian lifestyle and features upscale apartments, art houses, restaurants and shops.

“West Village has brought a pedestrian-oriented, friendly, street-front retail experience,” said Robert Bagwell, president of the West Village retail leasing department. “Park your car and have a pedestrian experience.”

Bagwell said that if the District Village in Columbia is done correctly, it could give the community a focal point and identity.

Architect Stephen Bourgeois was hired to do the preliminary design for the District Village. Bourgeois said plans call for four levels with 18,000 square feet per level. The development would include underground parking, retail on the first level and offices or apartments on the second and/or third floors.

“We’re still very much in the preliminary stages of planning,” Bourgeois said.

Carrie Gartner, executive director of Columbia’s Special Business District, is enthusiastic about the project.

“This is exactly what my board has been encouraging,” she said. “To take under-utilized space and build up, not just single-story stuff.”

Gartner said the Millers’ plan will take a space that’s boring and make it exciting. The fact that there are plenty of people who want to live in the District is a big advantage, she added.

“More residents downtown gives the District a 24-hour feel,” Gartner said.

The density of the area is just right, Bourgeois said, adding that the overall plan incorporates a lot of downtown’s vision.

Pastor Jim Bryan and the congregation of Missouri United Methodist Church plan to work with the Millers on the project. The church’s parking lot is the final tract the Millers need to begin their project.

Bryan said the retail possibilities of the development are great.

“It will be a very attractive addition and very practical in terms of increasing activity and bringing in people that live in the area,” he said.

Bryan cited parking as one issue to be considered, but said the plan actually looks as though there’s a possibility that the church would get more parking. He sees no downside to the development.

“We’re adding onto our church, and it’s a pretty messy thing,” Bryan said. “For a year you have to grit your teeth and live with it because of trucks and disruptions of traffic flow, but it’s what you get and worth it for the final product.”

The Columbia City Council on Monday agreed to sell the city’s parking lot to the Millers’ ELM Building Partnership for $285,000. Closing on the agreement will be delayed until Sept. 4, 2007, to allow the city to continue using the parking lot while the Wabash Station is being renovated.

The Millers could not be reached for comment.

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