COLUMBIA — Two weeks ago, after the Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on naming downtown alleys, the proposal seemed on its way to becoming a done deal: There would be five names for five alleys.
But Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and the Historic Preservation Commission have offered some new ideas.
The Historic Preservation Commission reviewed the alley names after a request from Wade at Monday night’s City Council meeting. The original proposal was to name five east-west alleys that run through downtown, but the commission now wants to divide each alley into segments with different names. That would create at least 22 alley names.
“With each block, you get to highlight some historical person or event, and it makes for a fun, walkable downtown,” Wade said. “It is a way of doing history lessons about our heritage in a pleasant way.”
The Historic Preservation Commission recommended to the City Council that names be considered case by case. Requests for alley names would go through a public process that would begin with the Historic Preservation Commission. The goal would be for alleys to recognize people, places and events, and a plaque would be hung to mark and explain the historical significance.
“This idea of naming as we go is a lot more manageable,” said Joy Piazza of the Historic Preservation Commission.
In spite of the commission’s proposal, the council will go ahead with a public hearing on alley names scheduled for Oct. 15.
A proposal by John Ott to open a business with an alley-only entrance in his building at 906 E. Broadway is the only factor making the overall proposal time-sensitive. The council has not yet approved a business license to Ott, saying it would be impossible to dispatch police or firefighters to Ott’s store if it has no official address.
“After the hearing is complete, the council can decide to table any number of the alleys,” city Planning and Development Director Tim Teddy said. “The council can decide there is no pressing need to name all, while there might be a pressing need to name some.
Teddy said that while representatives of the Columbia Fire Department like the idea of naming alleys because it would create a grid, he anticipates 22 alley names would be too cumbersome when it comes to finding an address.
“Using multiple street names for the same streets is a problem, but for alleys it may not be as significant of a problem if they are not as frequently used,” Teddy said.
Brian Treece, chairman of the Historic Preservation Commission, argued more names would be better.
“The more unique they are, the easier it is to locate,” he said.
Another point of contention is what sort of suffix alleys should get.
City staff have argued against “way,” saying many streets in the city and county have that suffix. Wade prefers “passage,” saying it has a positive connotation and from a historic standpoint the alley is “bridging the passage of time.”
The Historic Preservation Commission recommends suffixes be chosen case by case. Other possible endings include “muse” and “lane.”