Plan for plaza at City Hall in works

Wednesday, January 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Plans are in the works for a new downtown plaza that would also serve as the “front door” to Columbia city government.

The plaza is part of the $21 million renovation and expansion of the Daniel Boone Building at Eighth Street and Broadway. City Manager Bill Watkins presented a report Tuesday to the Columbia City Council that said “developing the plaza area presents a unique opportunity for the city to provide leadership in the physical appearance of downtown and to create a ‘wow’ effect.”

Watkins said the plaza would function as the “front door” of City Hall and integrate the differing streetscapes of Eighth Street and Broadway.

“It serves as an entry point to the new building and says a lot about the organization inside right there,” he said. “Secondly, it is a gathering point in downtown Columbia that says something about our community.”

Marie Nau Hunter, manager of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, said the plaza could serve as a positive focal point downtown. “The hope is to add to the downtown area a place that is inviting,” Hunter said. “Hopefully, people will come to it, use it, and enjoy it.”

About $400,000 of the renovation cost has been budgeted for the plaza and streetscape improvements project. Watkins has also suggested that a portion of the plaza be funded by the city’s Percent for Art program, which allows 1 percent of city construction or renovation projects to be used for on-site art. That would amount to $212,752, according to the report, representing the largest Percent for Art project. In his report, Watkins recommended the amount be divided between external and internal art.

“The external portion would be the new plaza project, and the internal would be the art within the newly renovated and expanded building,” Watkins said. “I have suggested that the internal portion of the building be done by only local artists. For the external portion, the artists could compete, but we would look at a bigger pool than just local artists.”

As of now there are no specific design plans. But Watkins said that architects are moving ahead with the basic shape of the plaza as part of the overall design of the expansion.

“We need to make some basic decisions about what the plaza and the front of the building would look like,” he said. “Then we can nail down what the footprint of the building will look like. The two go hand-in-hand.”

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