Gateway to Downtown

I’ve never been one to abandon a project but when it came to the Downtown Gateways, the best I could do was finish the planning process and secure board approval before leaving for a new job. That was back in 2014 and it wasn’t until this November 2021 that the Gateway Plaza was completed. I attended the public dedication ceremony along with the original design team from Arcturis and we had a great time sharing stories about the often contentious public planning process that surrounds a lot of the public art projects here in Columbia.

Russ Volmert was the lead on the project. At the very beginning of the process I warned Russ and his team that there would be a huge fuss at the beginning of the process but after a few revisions to the plan, folks would support it wholeheartedly. I suspect he thought I was nuts but this isn’t my first rodeo and I didn’t want him to get discouraged. Loud input isn’t always fun but it means people are engaged in the process and want to see something exciting happen. Or, in the words of Leslie Knope, “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring really loudly at me.”

Judy Glick wasn’t part of the Gateways project but she later worked on two Loop projects with the Arcturis team–our Loop Corridor Plan and our environmental branding. She’s a corker and someone I love having with me on a big project.

The big unveiling.

We hung around until sunset for the full effect.

Deb Sheals was on my board when we first started talking about gateways and the two of us went to a conference in St. Louis specifically to hear Russ present on gateways and landmarks. His main point: Any landmark should be selfie-worthy. And kudos to Deb for seeing this project through to the end. I felt much better leaving knowing she was on top of it.

In addition to being selfie-worthy, we wanted a piece of art people could interact with and kids could climb on. One of my favorite moments working downtown was during a Twilight Festival concert at Courthouse Square when I looked over and saw some kids climbing on top of the art to get a better view of the action. That was the moment I knew we had succeeded in creating a great public space.


Clearly, we’ve succeeded once again!