The downtown Columbus building that has housed Bartholomew County’s daily newspaper for 45 years has a new owner.

Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings, an affiliate company of Columbus Regional Health, purchased The Republic’s office at 333 Second St. on Thursday from Rayanna Corp., a local company established by the Brown-Marshall family of Columbus that owned the newspaper for more than 140 years.

Columbus Regional Health had been looking for more space for its growing health system, and was considering existing properties and potential new construction in Columbus, President and CEO Jim Bickel said.

“When this opportunity came up, it really intrigued us,” Bickel said. “It had the space and the parking. It would meet our needs.”

The fact that the downtown building is architecturally significant — having been named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2012, one of seven in the city to have that distinction — was also appealing, he said.

Being able to keep one of the city’s architectural landmarks intact, and do so in a useful way, was attractive to the healthcare system, Bickel said.

Some changes to the building’s interior will have to be made, but the architectural integrity of the building — with floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides — will be maintained, he said.

“We’re going to utilize the open glass. All that look will remain intact,” Bickel said. “We don’t have any changes planned for the exterior of the building at all.”

Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings paid $2,770,000 for the property, which has 23,000 square feet on the building’s main floor, on 2.18 acres.

“The hospital will be a great steward,” said Jeff Brown, group president of AIM Media Indiana.

“They understand the significance of the facility and its prominence and its anchor to the downtown. I know they’ll take good care of it,” he said.

Columbus Regional Health has taken several steps in the past decade to meet its increasing need for space. For example, it:

  • Purchased ArvinMeritor’s tech center at 4580 Central Ave., in the InfoTech Park near the airport, in December 2007. The building serves as the hospital system’s technical center and houses information technology, financial services and health information, Bickel said. However, the 48,000-square-foot building has reached capacity, he said.
  • Opened a clinic, WellConnect, at the corner of Third and Washington streets in a 4,700-square-foot office space leased from Southeastern Indiana Health Organization (SIHO).
  • Opened a 6,600-square feet expansion of its 15,500-square-foot cancer treatment center March 24, and on Wednesday opened its new emergency department, doubling that square footage to 16,350. An expansion of the emergency department had been in the works until a June 2008 flood damaged the hospital and put that plan on hold.

Some services are best suited to be on the hospital’s main campus on 17th Street and Hawcreek Avenue, but others don’t have to be, Bickel said.

Vision for newspaper office spurred downtown redevelopment

Steve Thomas, Columbus Regional’s director of buildings and construction, said The Republic building could occupy a maximum of 110 to 120 employees, depending on how it is configured.

The Republic’s office, designed by architect Myron Goldsmith for a 1971 opening, has 108 parking spaces and is a block away from the WellConnect clinic, which opened in December 2013.

Owning The Republic property gives WellConnect patients — who now park on the street or in a parking garage — an additional, nearby parking option, said Bickel, who added that there are no plans to move the clinic as a result of the new purchase.

“It’s in a great location,” Bickel said of the WellConnect office. “We lease that space, and it meets our needs — and we put a lot of design effort into the look and feel of the space.”

Meanwhile, the many improvements occurring in the downtown continue to make the area attractive for Columbus Regional, the hospital chief said.

Exactly which services will be housed in The Republic building will take several months to determine, and it will likely be next year before they move in, Bickel said.

The Republic will be able to continue using the building until the end of October while it seeks a new home, he said.

Purchase of The Republic building extends a trend of medical operations locating in downtown Columbus.

Franciscan St. Francis opened a primary care medical office at 123 Second St. — a block from The Republic building — in September 2014, and Cummins Inc. in late June will open its LiveWell Center, located just north of the company’s world headquarters on Jackson Street.

“The competitive landscape really isn’t what drove us to acquire this building,” Bickel said, however. “We continue to grow and we are out of space at a lot of our facilities.”

When Texas-based AIM Media purchased The Republic and its sister publications on Nov. 1, it chose not to purchase The Republic real estate.

Instead, AIM Media is looking for a more flexible workspace elsewhere in Columbus more suited to the technological needs of an evolving media company, the company said.

“The Republic has identified a few exciting possibilities for its new offices,” said Chuck Wells, vice president and publisher of The Republic. “We are thrilled to see the hospital purchase the building.”

About the building

Location: 333 Second St., Columbus
Year opened: 1971
Style of architecture: Modern
Architect: Myron Goldsmith of Chicago-based Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Zoned: Commercial-downtown
Usage: Location of The Republic, the daily newspaper in Columbus, and former headquarters of Home News Enterprises
Stories: 1 (also has basement)
Square footage: 23,064
Acreage: 2.18
Parking spaces: 108
Assessed value: $1,895,900 as of May 10, 2016 (for tax purposes; does not reflect market value)
Notable: Designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012, becoming the youngest building in the nation to receive that honor.

About Columubs Regional Health

• Started as a 32-bed hospital on Feb. 16, 1917.

• Originally known as Bartholomew County Hospital. Named changed to Columbus Regional Hospital on Sept. 25, 1992 following a renovation and services-expansion program.

• Organization introduced Columbus Regional Health in the fall of 2011. Serves as the umbrella organization for the entire Columbus Regional Health system.

• Has about 2,185 employees and is the second largest employer in Bartholomew County.

• The Columbus Regional Health system has 22 affiliated practices, including Columbus Regional Hospital and the Volunteers in Medicine clinic.

 

SHARE
Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.