A section of downtown Farmington is preparing to undergo a transformation in coming weeks that will see a block of Jefferson Street — from Columbia to Harrison streets — permanently closed off to traffic and turned into an attractive downtown plaza, or courtyard.
The concept for the plaza was developed by Farmington Architect Anthony Miano whose office is located in one of the buildings at the intersection. Walking around the area on a cool but sunny Tuesday morning, Mayor Larry Forsythe was obviously excited that the idea of a pedestrian courtyard downtown would finally reach fruition when construction starts May 20.
“When I became mayor, [City Administrator Greg Beavers] got to talking about the plaza and I said, ‘What things do we need to do?’ So, I knew about the plaza in the back of my mind. I said, ‘Let’s do this for downtown. That way we’ll bring more people downtown. They’ll have a place to go, sit outside and eat.’ About five years ago, 12 West came to us and wanted to block the sidewalk off and put tables out there. So, I said, ‘OK, let’s have Tony Miano draw it up because he’s familiar with the project.’ So, they did.
“I’m trying to help bring back downtown. We’re closing Jefferson from Columbia to Harrison. We’ve already had a public meeting on it. The only thing we had to work out was the courthouse, but we figured it out. They’re OK with it now. They’re going to park on the parking lot that they’ve got in the back there. That’s what I was told. We put in new handicapped accessible sidewalk for the building across from Ophelia where there’s going to be a new pizzeria put in.
Forsythe explained that the courtyard will be constructed of brick-like stamped concrete.
“It’s going to be nice,” he said. “You’ll have a curb where people can’t drive in and out anymore. Eventually, to get into the pizzeria, we’ll have steps to it from the courtyard — but that’s a while down the road. Tony Miano has it drawn up where there will be big steps all the way through here. I can see tables and hopefully we can get the beer license worked out to where you can have a beer out here on a Sunday afternoon or Saturday afternoon when it’s hot. Umbrella chairs… I’m hoping that people will come down here for this. What we’re trying to do is get people downtown and have a nice time.”
While the courtyard won’t go all the way down to where Jefferson intersects with Harrison, that end of the block will see the connection of two parking lots on either side of the street to form one large lot.
“It is going to be blocked off and the only way you’re going to be able to get in is by designated entrances,” Forsythe said. “It will all be parking lot. Then in the summertime, say you want to have a band, well you just get with the parking lot owners — which the city already has leases on the parking lots. So, if you want to have a band, schedule it, set you up a stage, park on the streets and have all these people in here.
“And the Brews, Blues and & BBQ — set up your barbecue venues and have people walking around. You can have different things in here. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to make downtown where people want to come downtown. We’ve got a lot to offer downtown, we just gotta’ get them here. A lot of people want a sit-down restaurant. If anyone wants to have a business downtown — have a sit-down restaurant — come on down.”
The mayor ended his tour by voicing his hope that the project will only take a month to complete, but he is unsure of the exact timetable and weather is always a factor in Missouri. Still, he believes that the plaza should be ready for public use sometime this summer.