City officials have purchased a car wash property on Second Street, the final piece in 10 contiguous acres that can be sold for redevelopment.
The Columbus Redevelopment Commission agreed to pay $300,000 for just over a half acre of land at 711 Second St. The property was owned by Robert Cseszko, who operated Bob’s Car Wash.
The acreage becomes part of 10 acres of land the city owns along Second Street, across from Lafayette Avenue and east of the Bartholomew County Jail.
The redevelopment commission opted for the special meeting to allow the sale to close quickly, said Heather Pope, Columbus redevelopment director.
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The agreement calls for the city to pay for any remediation costs for environmental issues and the city agreed to pay all liens, encumbrances, closing costs and prior unpaid property taxes.
The commission had been negotiating with Cseszko for years, Pope said. The city had previously attempted to buy the car wash in 2012 for $500,000, an offer Cseszko rejected at the time.
Cseszko’s property had been appraised in January and February 2015 by two firms, who had placed values on the property of $200,000 and $295,000, commission records show.
The car wash owner approached the city again in 2016 about selling the property and negotiations continued through most of last year, Pope said.
Second Street development has been on the city’s project list since 2015, when former Mayor Kristen Brown’s administration sent out a request for proposals seeking ideas on how the property could be developed. At the time, city officials realized the car wash property would have to be purchased to allow developers to freely design on all 10 acres of available property.
Two firms, Altera Development, a part of Avison Young of Dallas, and RealAmerica of Fishers, brought proposals to the city after expressing an interest in developing the acreage two years ago.
Altera Development had proposed a seven-story, mixed-use building with retail space on the ground floor and apartments and townhomes on the upper floors. RealAmerica provided examples of several apartment buildings it had developed in other communities in the past as an option.
Then, the Brown administration said it would be up to the developer to negotiate with Cseszko for the property, rather than the city purchasing it prior to selling it to a developer.
Although residential and retail uses are being considered for the property, city officials said they know there will be costs related to environmental cleanup of not only the car wash site, but also a brownfield site near the back of the 10 acres where a creosote plant once operated.
In 2012, some remediation was done, with the city spending about $1.2 million to encase the pollutants in concrete. In 2015, Brown said the area that was formerly the creosote plant would become a parking area for whatever development might go in, which would be the only possible use for that part of the property since the pollutants were encased but not removed.
In the 2015 appraisals of the car wash property, appraisers noted that it had 400 tons of contaminated soil tied to underground fuel tanks that have since been removed. Some groundwater contamination is possible as well, the appraisal states. Estimate for cleanup of those items was at $115,000 to $200,000 in one appraisal, and $95,000 to $180,000 in another. Monitoring wells may be needed for about two years after environmental remediation, the report states.
The city hired Polaris Environmental for an environmental study at a cost of $2,000 that will be forwarded to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for review, said Stan Gamso, redevelopment commission attorney. The Polaris study is expected to be completed in mid- to late March, Gamso said.
Gamso said there have been discussions with potential buyers for the 10-acre site, but they had been reluctant to pursue the property unless they could acquire the entire parcel, including the car wash site.
There haven’t been any overtures recently on the site, although Pope said Altera and RealAmerica would be contacted after the city puts together bid-to-purchase documents.
The city also will ask members of the public what they might like to see along the Second Street corridor, Pope said.
Redevelopment Commission chairwoman Sarah Cannon said she didn’t have any specific use in mind for how the property could be developed, but said the site has a lot of potential.
“I know it is a desirable piece of property,” Cannon said.
The city of Columbus has purchased a half-acre property at 711 Second St., which had been the site of Bob’s Car Wash, owned by Robert Cseszko.
The car wash sent out a message to media outlets saying Friday was the car wash’s last day of operation. It had operated at the Second Street location for about 48 years.