How the Providence Rd improvement project became such a huge deal

Jun 12, 2013

A bulldozer. It never came to this with the Providence Rd improvement project, but early plans included the demolition of eight possibly historic homes
Credit Flickr / Zachi Evenor

  This week we explain exactly what went down with the Providence Road improvement project and how it became such a huge mess.

The busiest intersection in Columbia is at Providence Rd and Stadium Boulevard. When the city started to look into ways to improve traffic flow about eight years ago, nobody knew it would turn into the big mess that it did.  Before it was over, the meetings multiplied, emotions went high and the city government was accused of arranging backdoor deals.

The problem is that this intersection is the "facade" of the city. For out-of-towners coming into Columbia to see a game, the intersection strikes a powerful image as the old Colonial and Tudor Revival style homes line up across the institutional buildings of MU. Widening Providence Road is a difficult proposition as the land would have to come from the University or the influential residents of Columbia's upscale Grasslands subdivision.

The trouble started when the city proposed suddenly approved two plans ominously coined Phase 1 and Phase 2. The plan was immediately unpopular as it involved the demolition of eight houses along Providence Road at a cost nearly $7 mill lion. The Historical Preservation Commission offered an alternative, and then Pubic Works came up with their own alternative. In the end, 10 alternatives were on the table and "Phase 1" was rebranded "Option 9."

This month, a compromise was reached, but not before a lot of fighting and accusations of backdoor deals.

  This week on the podcast, the CoMo Explained team tries to lay out the history of this road improvement debacle and looks into the controversy of backdoor deals. Check this space each Wednesday morning for a new explainer.

Stories and docs we talk about on the show:

  • Map [pdf]: Option 9, once called "Phase 1" was the most controversial of the road plans.
  • Map [pdf]: The City eventually settled on a slightly modified version of this plan, Option 8a.
  • Article: This Columbia Daily Tribune article details the final compromise
  • Report [pdf]: This (big) report from the Historical Preservation Commission is surprisingly fascinating. It makes the case that the city left key stakeholders out of the planning process and even kept some elected officials out.
  • Article: The Columbia Heartbeat suggest that one Grasslands homeowner should have been informed before he bought a house directly in the path of the demolition plan.
  • Map: This is just a google map of the grasslands neighborhood. But it's super useful to follow along with the podcast!