Merritt Chase to redesign Downtown Entrance Plaza in Columbus, Indiana


When architecture aficionados enter Columbus, Indiana, to bear witness to its myriad midcentury masterpieces, they often do so by passing through Downtown Entrance Plaza—a 1.5-acre green space split by State Road 46. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) completed an attractive makeover for the circle in 2000, shortly after the iconic Robert N. Stewart Bridge was completed nearby. But today, the plaza is unkempt, and in need of another facelift.

Merritt Chase will bear the responsibility to redesign the Downtown Entrance Plaza. The Indianapolis and Pittsburgh office was selected by the City of Columbus Redevelopment Commission for the job, a collaboration with Columbus Design Institute.

Previously, Merritt Chase transformed Monument Circle in Indianapolis into a car-free plaza, a project entitled SPARK on the Circle. In Columbus, Merritt Chase has been tasked with transforming another road-choked area with great potential as an urban gathering space.

Site Map (Courtesy City of Columbus Redevelopment Commission)

About 28,000 vehicles pass through Downtown Entrance Plaza on a daily basis, which directly connects with Stewart Bridge by J. Muller International. Two decades ago, MVVA’s landscape design created a semi-circle of hedges and trees there that hug a few memorials indebted to war veterans and law enforcement officers.

But today, the plaza is overgrown and under utilized, the Redevelopment Commission said recently. It’s not fitting for an entry way into downtown Columbus, where buildings by Eero Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and other design demigods abound.

Thus, Merritt Chase’s goal is to transform Downtown Entrance Plaza into a desirable park. The office will work with local partners to ascertain community input, and reimagine the heavily trafficked space into a comfortable environment that also promotes cycling and walking.

Stewart Bridge in Columbus, Indiana
Stewart Bridge designed by J. Muller International was completed in 1999. (Hadley Fruits/Courtesy City of Columbus Redevelopment Commission)

“We are honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the extraordinary design legacy in Columbus, Indiana,” said Chris Merritt of Merritt Chase. “We want to create a vision for the downtown entrance plaza that represents the values of good design that has shaped a commitment to civic excellence in this community.”

For next steps, a full site survey will be conducted. On June 24, Merritt Chase and the Redevelopment Commission will convene for a formal introduction, where the design team discusses stakeholder visioning. A community-wide engagement workshop will take place that night as well, signaling the project’s official launch.





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