Officials to pursue downtown proposal

City officials have agreed to pursue a multiuse hotel and apartment development on about 10 acres at Second and Lafayette streets, a project estimated to cost about $60 million.

In a joint meeting Wednesday, Columbus City Council and redevelopment commission members were asked to brainstorm about ideas for the acreage after the city received proposals from two developers interested in working with the city on the property.

One of those developers, Altera Development, part of Avison Young of Dallas, sent artist renderings showing how the property could have a seven-story, mixed-use building, with 23,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and apartments and townhomes above.

The company’s proposal also included a 120-unit hotel, with an extended-stay option, and wrapped green space around the project with a pool, walking trails and dog park.

City officials also were impressed with the expertise of RealAmerica of Fishers. City consultant Doug Pacheco said the company was well qualified to take on whatever development project criteria the city provided.

Pacheco took notes as the two city panels talked about the property and what members would like to see there. The group settled on the apartments and townhomes idea, momentarily toying with the idea of asking for an affordable-housing option but settling on market-rate units.

That’s similar to what the city settled on when developing The Cole apartments in downtown Columbus, Mayor Kristen Brown said.

City officials also want adequate parking, whether that means a parking garage or surface parking, green space off the street and the ground-floor retail on one of the buildings, which is required for the current downtown commercial zoning for the property.

Redevelopment commission members voted to have the property appraised, which is expected to take about 30 days, Pacheco said. An average of those appraisals will then be included in a bid sheet that will be offered to the developers to determine if they are still interested in the project, based on the criteria city officials put together Wednesday.

Bids from the developers would be due back at the end of October, something Pacheco acknowledged was a tight time frame. By the end of November, the redevelopment commission could have a meeting to award the project to a developer and begin a negotiating process, Pacheco said.

Brown told the two boards that the negotiations will include items sought by the developer as part of the deal.

For example, the property where the 146-unit Cole was built, on Jackson Street between Second and Third streets downtown, was given to developer Buckingham Cole LLC. The city also agreed to pay $300,000 in tax-increment financing district funds for architectural fees to the company after learning it had been promised by Columbus Downtown Inc., an entity that Brown disbanded when she took office.

Councilmen Jim Lienhoop questioned whether the developer might seek a tax abatement, or a contingency for the purchase of Bob’s Car Wash, or for environmental cleanup on the property.

The Bob’s Car Wash property, 711 Second St., is owned by Robert Cseszko, who said he is interested in selling it, which would be required if a developer takes on the project. The redevelopment commission attempted to buy the car wash property in 2012 for $500,000, which Cseszko rejected, city records show.

It will be up to the developer to negotiate a deal for the car wash property, Brown said.

City Attorney Jeff Logston said it will be up to the developer to determine how long it might need for negotiations to work out details such as the purchase of the car wash property and any environmental concerns or due diligence that would need to be completed. It could be 60 days or a developer might ask for 120 days, Logston said.

Councilman Kenny Whipker said nothing prevents developers from taking a closer look at the site while the appraisals are being done.

Although not included in the criteria that the two boards settled on, city officials did talk about the possible need for conference center space that might be fulfilled on the property.

Councilman Frank Jerome said that a better conference center space might help draw more people downtown.

Pacheco said city officials had heard from Cummins and other manufacturers that there is a need for the apartments, extended-stay temporary housing and for the hotel, which will add more rooms for the city’s increasing sports-tourism efforts.

What's next

Columbus Redevelopment Commission members will meet at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 to consider the list of criteria for development possibilities at a property along Second Street at Lafayette Avenue.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.