Cummins will skip the remaining four years on its lease of the former Sears store downtown and instead buy the former retail space by the end of this month.

In addition to purchasing the office space, which holds about 400 Cummins employees, Columbus’ largest employer will become the landlord for YES Cinema and Indiana University Center for Art + Design (IUCAD), located along the east side of the building fronting Jackson St.

The price of the 62,800-square-foot building that Cummins is buying from the Columbus Capital Foundation will be released after the sale is completed, said Jon Mills, Cummins spokesman.

Beyond ensuring the site will have investment for the future, the sale also ensures a windfall for the city of Columbus and future downtown development, said Tracy Souza, president of the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County and a capital foundation board member.

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The Columbus Capital Foundation received the Sears property as a donation from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation in 2011.

The capital foundation was established to hold properties for potential community development.

Souza explained that at the time the foundation donated the property, proceeds from the sale would go to the Heritage Fund, to be placed into the organization’s capital fund to improve and enhance Columbus’ downtown.

“We’re thinking, ‘How do you use this fantastic gift?’” Souza said of Cummins’ investment in the property.

The Heritage Fund is planning to work with the new city administration on how best to utilize the funds downtown, she said.

Cummins entered into a five-year lease on the downtown property last January, an agreement that included an option to purchase. Owning the building provides more flexibility with the design of the property for Cummins, Mills said.

The purchase also allows Cummins to have a placeholder on a strategic location in downtown Columbus, Souza said.

Cummins, which has more than 3,000 employees who work downtown, was maxed out of office space when the Sears location became available. Leasing the building gave the company an interim option to expand. When it leased the building, Cummins renovated the inside of the former retail store to fit the needs of an office building.

As owners, more improvements may be coming, Mills said, as the company continues to be committed to the Columbus global headquarters and wants to make the community proud of the building.

The property also comes with an estimated 250 parking spaces, which are at a premium in downtown Columbus.

The Sears property, located between Third and Fourth streets and Brown and Jackson streets, is about a block from Cummins’ global headquarters at 500 Jackson St. in downtown Columbus.

Sears was open at the site for more than 40 years before it closed the retail store and 10,000-square-foot auto center on March 9, 2014, following poor sales performance.

History of the Sears building

The first Sears, Roebuck & Co. store in Columbus opened in 1929 in the first floor and basement of the Bassett Building.

When it opened in its current location, Sears was part of a block called Courthouse Center, a mall containing a bookstore, cinema, ice cream store and other shops. The name was later changed to The Commons Mall.

Sears closed its retail store and auto center in downtown Columbus on March 9, 2014 because of poor financial performance.

The property was appraised in 2009 at $3,420,000 when it belonged to the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation. That foundation donated the property to Columbus Capital Foundation in 2011 when it was divesting its assets.

The property includes the former 62,800-square-foot Sears retail store and former auto center, with nearly 10,000 square feet under roof, plus 3½ acres of paved parking.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.