Mayor pushes for call from council

The city has received several responses to purchase and develop city-owned property at Second and Lafayette streets into a hotel, apartment and retail complex.

But while Mayor Kristen Brown is pushing to make a decision in the waning days of her administration, Mayor-elect Jim Lienhoop said he’s not sure that proposed apartments and a hotel are the best use for that property.

Brown has scheduled a second special meeting of the redevelopment commission for 5 p.m. Monday to open offers to purchase the 10-acre city-owned property.

She also said she plans to put the offers on the agenda for public discussion at the Dec. 15 city council meeting. She will ask the council to make a recommendation to the redevelopment commission to either reject both offers or to accept one, to be considered Dec. 21 for a vote by the redevelopment commission.

If an offer is accepted, the city would enter into an exclusive negotiating period beginning Jan. 4, the first business day of the new Lienhoop administration, Brown wrote in an email.

In September, the city sent out a request for proposals seeking a developer for about 10 acres at Second and Lafayette.

During a joint meeting of the Columbus City Council and Columbus Redevelopment Commission Sept. 2 to brainstorm ideas about the property, city officials agreed to pursue a multiuse hotel and apartment development, a project estimated to cost about $60 million.

Even though city council members had that session with the mayor and redevelopment commission, Lienhoop said Tuesday night that there had not been much public input about the hotel and apartment idea.

Lienhoop said the criteria that was set in the request for proposals had mirrored the ideas of one developer, Avison Young of Dallas, rather than reflecting something the public had weighed in on.

The mayor-elect said he would like to have the opportunity to think the project through and have some flexibility to consider other ideas for the development of the property.

In an email Wednesday morning, Brown said the decision to proceed or not on the proposals does not belong to the city council but belongs to the redevelopment commission.

“However, the majority of today’s council control all of next year’s redevelopment commission appointments, and there may be incentives that would ultimately need council approval,” Brown wrote. “This is why I will ask for a public discussion of the current council and a recommendation from them prior to our redevelopment commission voting decision on the 21st.”

The proposals to develop the property were due Dec. 1 and are at City Hall but were not opened Tuesday. The Columbus Redevelopment Commission lacked a quorum to conduct a public meeting to open the proposals.

Commission members Dave Wright, Russ Poling Jr. and Bob Abrams waited about 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon in the city council chambers before determining no other members would be arriving and ended the gathering.

Mayor Kristen Brown, who is commission president, City Councilman Frank Jerome, who is vice president, and member Laurie Booher, who will serve as a city councilwoman starting in January, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

Earlier this year, the city sent out a request for information about the property, with two companies submitting their ideas for the acreage. One of those developers, Altera Development, part of Avison Young of Dallas, sent artist renderings showing how the property could feature 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 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 a response from RealAmerica of Fishers. That response did not give a specific proposal for Second and Lafayette but reviewed the company’s past projects for multifamily, commercial, retail and affordable housing projects.

In the brainstorming session, city officials agreed that the property needed 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 consultant Doug Pacheco said in an earlier interview that Cummins and other manufacturers have said there is a need for the apartments, extended-stay temporary housing and for the hotel.

Another hotel would add rooms for the city’s increasing sports-tourism efforts, city officials have said.

What's next

Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown has set a special meeting of the Columbus Redevelopment commission for 5 p.m. Monday in the city council chambers at City Hall.

The commission will open proposals for development of 10 acres at Second and Lafayette streets in downtown Columbus.

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