Council works to boost city’s first impression

A council vote could make Columbia’s entry points more inviting to visitors
Sunday, August 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:56 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA-For first-time visitors coming into Columbia off of Interstate 70 or U.S. 63, the city may make a less-than-inspiring initial impression.

And that’s not how it should be, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.

“These (exits) are the gateway into the city of Columbia,” he said. “... If what people see is dried-up grass on the median and highway embankments, it doesn’t give you a good impression.”

That’s why the city is considering spending thousands of dollars to clean up those entry points. One of the items to emerge from the City Council’s annual retreat last year was an interest in making major entryways into Columbia more attractive to residents and visitors. The council will vote Monday night on whether to approve the city manager’s contractor selection for the initial phase of a landscaping project for the entryways.

The project’s first phase asks the firm selected by the city to identify suitable entryway candidates for improvement and come up with design proposals for the improvements.

The city manager’s office has recommended the council approve St. Louis-based Planning Design Studio for the initial phase.

Planning Design Studio declined to comment about the specifics of the project until its contract had been approved.

It has submitted a bid of $33,000 for the initial phase of the project, which will take three months to complete. Funds for the initial phase will come from a contingency account in the city’s Capital Improvement Program.

The cost of implementing any design proposal, however, will be much more. Costs could potentially reach “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” St. Romaine said.

But some residents would be glad to see some improvement. “Yeah, (coming into the city from I-70) there’s nothing that makes you go ‘Ah-ha, I’ve come to a beautiful town,’” said Sharon Y. Lee, 74, of Columbia.

And what does Cynder Jones, 34, think of the ride into Columbia from I-70?

“Plain would be the optimum word to describe it,” she said.

The entryways should be a welcome sign for visitors, St. Romaine said.

“A welcome sign to stay awhile, and,” he paused, smiling, “spend some money.”

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