Downtown alley renamed 'Alley A'

The Columbia City Council decided to temporarily name one stretch of the unnamed alleyways downtown "Alley A" so property owners can develop on it.

The remainder of the ordinance proposing to name 22 blocks of alleyways downtown was tabled at the council's regular meeting on Monday.

The council was encouraged to proceed with the naming of Alley A by Columbia residents John Ott and Glen Strothmann, who separately applied for building permits on the property earlier this year and could not develop until the alleyway in front of the property was named.

"Tonight worked out well for us," Ott said after the council meeting. "It feels good. We've had lots of cooperation from the city."

Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser advocated holding off naming any of the alleys until the council had time to develop criteria that the locations need to meet before they can be named. Naming a section opens it up for commercial business development, as well as government removal of snow and other upkeep.

"I want something concrete so that everyone downtown is on the same playing field," Nauser said. "Everyone should know what sort of criteria they need to meet."

Strothmann owns enough property facing Alley A to build several businesses. He said he's excited to go ahead with developing the site.

"We have all our plans," Strothmann said. "We've just been waiting for a permit."

Until now, Ott said he had only been able to obtain a demolition permit for his 3,500 square feet of property, where he plans to build an outside deck and possibly a restaurant.

Mayor Darwin Hindman, who proposed the amendment to name the alley in question Alley A, said he believes the council missed an opportunity to promote commercial investment in the downtown area when it didn't pass a proposal to name the alleys two years ago. He said he is concerned the city is "shooting itself in the foot" by delaying Ott and Strothmann from building.

"We've been begging people to make developments in downtown Columbia," Hindman said. "What I want to know is how quickly we can get this man a building permit."

Property owners have the option of building on unnamed sites if a third-party engineer unaffiliated with the government inspects their property, but Hindman said he was concerned with the risks a business owner would run by choosing this option.

Ott said he wouldn't have chosen this option.

"I would've just had to wait," he said.

Nauser said she wants the council to focus on creating the necessary policy in the upcoming weeks before it addresses the ordinance again.

"Hopefully we can get it done on the 19th," Nauser said. "I think that it can be, and I think that if we put all our heads together we can get some criteria and we should be able to move forward."

A historically significant name will likely replace Alley A in the future, and other names will be chosen for additional alleyways that meet the criteria.

Former Missouri resident and MU graduate Christie Koontz, who lives in Colorado but has cousins who live in Missouri, said she supports naming blocks individually so the city can honor many figures who were important to Columbia.

"There are numerous Columbians to be honored, and this is one opportunity to do that," Koontz said. "That doesn't come up often."

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