A stretch of Flat Branch covered with pavement will be uncovered when the city expands the downtown park that bears the creek’s name toward the intersection of Broadway and Providence Road.
The first phase of planning for the Flat Branch Park extension began this week when the Mayor’s Task Force on Bicentennial Celebration Planning agreed to move forward to secure money for a $34,650 topographic survey.
Money for the topographical survey hasn’t been approved yet, so the group needs to create a budget and do fundraising, Amy Schneider, director of the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau and task member, said. The task force agreed to ask the Downtown Community Improvement District for a $20,000 contribution.
The park project has been combined with the Downtown Community Improvement District’s Gateways Plaza. Together, the efforts will serve as the capstone for the recently named “CoMo200” bicentennial celebration. As part of the park extension, the task force wants to allow more of Flat Branch, much of which was paved over as downtown Columbia developed, to once again see the light of day.
The purpose of the survey is to gather elevation data on the property, said Mike Snyder, a member of the task force and senior city park planner. It will gauge how the park will relate to surrounding roads and how sidewalks can be built to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It also will give further information on how steep the banks of the extended creek will need to be, Snyder said.
“We need to know what we’re starting from in order to know what to do with it,” he said.
Snyder said the task force has received a proposal from Crockett Engineering to do the work, but nothing has been approved yet.
The southeast corner of the Broadway-Providence intersection will eventually become the site of the Gateways Plaza, the third phase in the District’s multiyear Gateways Project.
The first phase of the multiyear Gateways project — light hubs near Flat Branch Park, the post office and the Wabash Station — was completed in January 2017, according to previous Missourian reporting.
The extension, if approved by the Columbia City Council, will comprise the area formerly occupied by the McAdams Ltd. building, which was demolished earlier this year; the Gateways Plaza parcel; and a short stub of Cherry Street on the east side of Providence Road. This will add six-tenths of an acre to the existing 2.75-acre park.
The agreement to do the survey marks the first development in the park’s planning timeline. After the survey work is done, the task force will finish the park’s master plan.
The goal is to finish the plan and a budget for the expansion by Jan. 15 and to present it to the council no later than June.
The projected date of dedication is March 2021, the year of Columbia’s bicentennial. The celebration will occur over three years because the original settlement of Smithton was founded in 1818.
Settlers moved the village to the Flat Branch area in 1821 because it was closer to a water source. Smithton was then renamed Columbia.
The city purchased the land for $1.1 million in late 2016 to extend the park and create the plaza, which will include “internally illuminated columns and a large sculptural globe used to spell out ‘Columbia,’” according to the District website.
Along with the park, the task force is working to implement local historical curriculum into the Columbia Public Schools social studies programs to celebrate the bicentennial. It also plans to host a “Smithton Launch” in early November.