"Single voice" best to lead downtown neighborhoods, City Council members advised

COLUMBIA, 12/31/11  (Beat Byte) --  Advocates of Columbia's multiple-voice Downtown Leadership Council (DLC) will see that arrangement end as a so-called "Community Improvement District" or CID replaces the DLC, District director Carrie Gartner advised Columbia City Council members in a December 16 email that included city manager Mike Matthes.

"We have already transferred policy and budget duties to the CID," Gartner wrote, about the new quasi-governing body.

Critics of the move such as former DLC director Randy Gray -- an urban planning expert -- worry that CID membership mostly represents downtown landowners to the exclusion of nearby neighborhood associations, merchants, university representatives, students, and other parties presently represented on the Downtown Leadership Council. 
Word of plans to build condos starting at $600,000.00 -- or $200/square foot -- next to the city's second new mega-parking garage suggests that his fears may be on point.

A group that includes assistant city manager Tony St. Romaine; Boone County Family Resources director Les Wagner; developer Bob Grove; and architect Nick Peckham is circling their wagons around the project. 

That could spell trouble for many older, existing neighborhoods near the downtown area, neighbors worry, especially if a long-pondered move to reconstitute a so-called Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority with the power to use widespread eminent domain emerges from the CID.

"How long do you think cute, little historic Hubbell Drive will survive next to 3,000 square foot$600,000 'upscale" living'?" asked nearby homeowner Tracy Greever-Rice.  "I could have typed $600k, but I want everyone to grasp all those zeroes.
The fears are misplaced, Gartner has advised the City Council.

A city staff report "recommends the CID absorb the DLC's duties, provided the CID includes representatives from neighborhood groups, the universities and other groups represented by the DLC," Gartner said.  "I wanted to let everyone know that this can easily happen -- we were already looking at ways to pull in interest groups from the greater downtown area."
In a move that has some of his constituents scratching their heads, First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt, meanwhile, cheered the pricey new condos.  "This is a brilliant solution, and it speaks well for everyone involved," Schmidt told the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Despite her insistence that many voices will be heard, Gartner's final note to the Council -- perhaps a Freudian slip -- may inspire more concerns.   "We do think it will be simpler from everyone's standpoint to have a single voice speaking on behalf of downtown," she concluded.