Editorial: Downtown plaza revamp open to public input

In one of the most heavily traveled areas of Columbus lies a place of honor for local veterans, law enforcement officers and others, but it’s seen better days and is due for a major redesign. You have an opportunity to help shape the future of this important piece of public land.

The Downtown Entrance Plaza redesign project is a tall order because there’s a lot happening on a small piece of ground. The city and design experts have gone the extra mile in seeking public views about the property, and you can share yours Monday evening.

Those interested in the project should come to Jackson Street between First and Second streets from 6 to 7 p.m. Monday for what organizers describe as a picnic with refreshments and conversation.

That’s when the Columbus Redevelopment Commission and the Columbus Design Institute, with Indianapolis and Pittsburgh-based landscape architecture firm Merritt Chase invite the public to learn about and discuss the project and share their views. The effort is in collaboration with Columbus Design Institute, a part of Landmark Columbus Foundation.

On just 1.5 acres bisected by eastbound State 46 just after it crosses the Robert N. Stewart Memorial Bridge entering downtown, the plaza is home to the POW/MIA/Law Enforcement Plaza north of State Road 46 and the Robert D. Garton Veterans Plaza south of the highway.

“As a main entry into Columbus, approximately 28,000 vehicles pass by the plaza each day. The space, created in 2000 by world-renowned landscape architects Michael Van Valkenburg and Associates, is in need of upgrades after becoming overgrown and underutilized, according to city officials,” The Republic’s Brad Davis reported.

Facilitating that much traffic through a public plaza in a small space is a delicate balance, and even more so in this location, where eastbound motorists had been driving at speeds of 50 mph (or more) less than a mile before. But here is a place where thoughtful design can make a statement and build bridges in our community between the public, veterans, law enforcement and others.

Landmark Columbus says that the project’s goals are “to transform the landscape into a more desirable space, collaborate with local partners and adjacent projects, improve key design features and connectivity, and ensure the project’s integrity and universal accessibility.”

The plaza connects or will connect through The People Trail to nearby assets such as the 1821 Bicentennial Trail and the forthcoming downtown riverfront project. Seldom does a community have an opportunity to upgrade so many central features in such short order, and it’s fitting and appropriate that in Columbus, the public’s voice is valued.

If you have views, you should share them. This is a prime community space that, with this new focus, can enjoy greater use and interaction from residents and visitors alike. What do you say?