Landscape architects are being sought to redesign plazas forming the downtown entrance into Columbus

Mike Wolanin | The Republic A view of POW/MIA Plaza in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, July 20, 2022.

Budgets have been established and landscape architects are being sought to redesign the downtown entrance into Columbus.

The entrance consists of two plazas immediately east of the Robert N. Stewart Bridge – the POW/MIA/Law Enforcement Plaza north of State Road 46 and the Robert D.Garton Veterans Plaza south of the highway.

The two plazas, which only take up one-and-a-half acres of land, are collectively referred to as the Downtown Entrance Plaza.

After a lengthy period of discussions, the Columbus Design Institute is issuing Requests for Qualifications (RFQ) to redesign the entrance plaza. In the request, the institute stated its primary focus at this early stage is to identify and solicit a qualification submission from professional landscape architects.

The budget is set at $450,000, with a $50,000 limit on design fees. The Columbus Redevelopment Commission announced it will fund some of the site’s infrastructure improvements by using dollars from a Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district that helped fund the construction of The Cole apartment complex.

There are four goals the institute wants to accomplish by redesigning the green space created in 2000 by world-renowned landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburg and Associates.

  • Make the gateway entry more attractive, safe, and accessible while maintaining green space and allowing more interaction with the public.
  • Collaborate with organizations with a stake in the property to creatively solve site deficits and design for greater use, enjoyment, and connectivity to the 1821 Trail, downtown, and future riverfront development.
  • Improve pedestrian-friendly design features with the vehicular experience ensuring the site design creates a positive experience and complements the key downtown features.
  • Ensure compliance with the American Disabilities Act and the Public Right-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines.

While considered a small project, the design for the POW/MIA/Law Enforcement Plaza will be challenging. It is landlocked by streets with heavy traffic.

Although approximately 28,000 vehicles drive across the Stewart Bridge from State Road 11 and Jonathan Moore Pike every day, interaction with the public may be a tall order. Most drivers never notice the memorial plazas because they are focused on finding stop lights, deciding which lane they need to be in, and watching out for pedestrians and other vehicles.

But there appears to be more land for a designer to work with just south of the Robert D. Garton Veterans Plaza that might be extended to First Street, which is where the 1821 Trail is located.

The submission deadline for landscape architects is 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 21. The top-ranked design team is expected to be notified this spring.