Downtown Infrastructure

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COLUMBIA - Poor infrastructure in the downtown area has been on the minds of the public, building developers, and city officials for months. It even caused city officials to put a freeze on all development back in December 2013.

At a Downtown Columbia Leadership Council meeting Wednesday, Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Columbia didn't plan to build as much residential property downtown years ago and that is one of the biggest reasons there is inadequate infrastructure now. 

St. Romaine said in 2006 the city noticed MU growing in enrollment but thought new student housing would pop up other places than downtown. 

"Nobody anticipated it all to be downtown (development of student housing)," St. Romain said.  

The Downtown Columbia Leadership Council is currently working with the city council to get the public involved in the matter and advise the council on possible funding options.

The leadership council is currently gathering data from the Columbia Public Works Department and Columbia Water and Light Department on how to move forward with infrastructure improvements. 

Columbia Director of Public Works John Glascock said the pipes in the downtown area are not able to service any more development. In fact, during the last rain storm Wednesday, the pipes were over capacity, although they did not overflow. 

Glascock said it would cost about $10 million for sewer improvements downtown. 

If improvements were made to the sewer infrastructure, Glascock estimates an additional 36,000 people could live in the downtown area. That's expecting that each person would use 100 gallons of water per day. 

Downtown Columbia Leadership Council Chair Brent Gardner said there has been a lack of communication between city staff and the council. He said this is why the leadership council is working hard to figure out solutions to the downtown infrastructure issues. 

"Infrastructure downtown is important and... we're low on it so we're investigating or looking into what's going on with infrastructure," Gardner said.

There is no timeline on when downtown infrastructure will be improved or new development will be added to the area.