Editorial: A eulogy for Columbia’s historic downtown (1820-2016)

Remembering old Columbia’s charm as it’s replaced by luxury student housing.

We are here today to mourn the loss of Columbia’s historic downtown, the city’s center since its founding, and all of its charm. From its restaurants and bars to its quaint little shops, downtown Columbia is being torn down one building at a time to make room for luxury student living.

It began with poor Shakespeare’s Pizza. A popular attraction in Columbia since it opened in 1973, the original location was demolished last year to make way for Brookside’s newest housing complex. The iconic pizza joint has taken refuge in a location next door, but it will relocate to the first floor of the new Brookside building in a retail space without its classic storefront.

Then came Bengals. Bengals was a popular bar for “upperclassmen” to go to watch football games and hang out on the large patio. Partiers at Bengals could be heard from blocks away on any given Friday night. Patrons said their goodbyes to the hangout when it closed in November. The empty building now waits demolition.

Casablanca, a Mediterranean restaurant on Fifth and Elm streets, followed soon after. Losing Casablanca meant losing the bit of culinary diversity it lent to Columbia’s restaurant scene. The building is now being torn down to create a new student housing complex in combination with the land where Bengals was housed.

Quinton’s and Britches were the next victims. Quinton’s gave bar-goers a slightly classier experience than most bars with its bottomless weekend mimosas and multi-level outdoor patio. Its relaxed atmosphere and scenic view of downtown Columbia and MU’s campus are now being replaced by an apartment building, despite the original building having been part of the Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Sites.

Britches, the clothing boutique formerly attached to Quinton’s, sold female clothing in an atmosphere far different from an ordinary department store. While they said they will be returning in the future at a different location, no new stores have been announced. The businesses on the corner of Ninth and Locust streets were driven out to build Rise Apartments, a 10-story building of parking and apartments.

Mizzou Hillel, on University Avenue, is going voluntarily. When its building is demolished for student housing, the Jewish campus center will relocate for a year before moving into the new building.

As Columbia’s historic downtown dies, affordable student housing dies with it. As cost-efficient options like James Condominiums and houses for rent on Fourth and Fifth streets are torn down to be replaced with luxury options, students are being pushed farther from downtown and from campus unless they are able to pay a higher rent.

Columbia’s historic and affordable downtown is survived only by a memory of what it felt like to live in a town with beautiful, vintage buildings that reflected its history. It lives on in our minds as we look at tall, modern student housing complexes and as we daydream of Columbia’s yesteryear.

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