The District celebrates first elements of the Gateways project
COLUMBIA - Downtown visitors may have noticed lighted spheres hanging above several intersections. The illuminated light hubs are the first finished elements of The District's ongoing project called The Gateways.
The District's assistant director of outreach, Gabriela Cutrera, said she and colleagues are most excited for The Gateways Plaza.
"We are hoping to get it done by 2021, which is the bicentennial of Columbia. It's kind of our gift to Columbia for the 200 anniversary," Cutrera said.
The Gateways Plaza is planned for the intersection of Broadway and Providence. Large letters will spell out Columbia and notify visitors they have arrived to the downtown area. The Gateways Plaza will also feature illuminated columns with engraved signatures and a large globe.
Cutrera said The Gateways involves different landmarks around downtown Columbia.
"We wanted to have different public art and different icons that people can go to and make a point to visit,” she said.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Amy Schneider said each of the three light hubs represents a special element of Columbia. They are placed in significantly specific locations.
The Sharp End was selected because "it is the historically black neighborhood so we wanted to pay tribute," Cutrera said. The light hub is located on Walnut Street between Fifth and Sixth streets across from the post office.
The colorful Flat Branch Park light hub is near Locust Street and shows a nature theme. Schneider said it represents the parks and trails and their importance to Columbia.
Art is another focus of The Gateways.
"It is the foundation of all that makes Columbia vibrant," Schneider said.
The Wabash Station light hub represents the North Village Arts District. Adam McMillen, a local artist, created the piece. He said it was nice to make artwork, "for the sake of the art," and he believes The Gateways, "helps to identify certain communities in downtown."
McMillen said he used his own shop for inspiration to make the light hub.
"It's just a ball of tools and the smaller ones are all made out of washers welded together. It was kind of an experiment and it turned out very awesome. I was really happy to do it," he said.
The District's goal for The Gateways is to celebrate the "cultural, entertainment, and commercial heart of the city," Cutrera said.
The Gateways is also designed to enhance public safety. The hubs provide light for people walking around downtown when it's dark. Future projects provide ADA improvements with updated crosswalks and sidewalks. A bike lane is planned to connect Fourth Street to Flat Branch Park.
Schneider said the city is putting the project together piece by piece. Funding for the first three light hubs was provided by the downtown Community Improvement District.
To continue the remaining projects, more funding is needed. Money is raised through grants and private donations.