A gradual transformation: Philharmonic center, office update about halfway done

Construction for the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s arts and events space being added on to the back of its office building downtown is on budget and on schedule — now about halfway done — in preparation for a spring opening.

The project also includes a refurbishing and updating of the ensemble’s entire structure.

The local professional orchestra made public its plans for the $2.5 million Helen Haddad Music, Arts, and Event Center slightly more than a year ago. The 80- to 100-seat facility will be a shared space among the Philharmonic and various groups for concerts, recitals, theater, dance performances, meetings, receptions and more.

Organizers said that there are currently enough pledges or donations in hand to cover all construction costs at the structure at 315 Franklin St. The old front awning was just removed last week, and eventually will be replaced by a steel and glass porch.

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“It’s exciting to gradually see the transformation,” said Margaret Powers, the Philharmonic executive director.

Planners still are working out details about rental fees and related information, she said.

David Force, executive vice president of local Force Construction Co., acknowledged that there have been some surprises in the structure, including what appeared to be a fuel tank under a stairway. He said that is being taken care of and has not delayed other work.

“There always are challenges to take a 140-year-old building and bring it both up to date and also into the future,” Force said.

The building, which has served as the orchestra’s home since 2003, originally was the Carter Chicken Hatchery processing plant. In fact, a few years ago, people found chicken feathers in the lower level, according to Force. Cummins Inc. used the building before the orchestra moved in.

For the Philharmonic, the three-story, 5,000-square-foot brick building has housed several staff offices, a music library and space for equipment storage. It is also used for private and group music lessons, youth ensemble rehearsals and other education-related activities throughout the year.

In June 2018, the longtime local philanthropists Bob and Helen Haddad announced their decision to donate $1 million toward the Philharmonic’s Building for the Arts Capital Campaign. The Haddads have long been key supporters of the Philharmonic’s youth programs.

The Haddads’ gift, made in two parts, included an outright gift of $500,000 seeking an additional $500,000 in matching funds. Members of the community stepped up and met that challenge within six weeks.

With those funds, plus contributions by The Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, the Custer and Nugent foundations and other foundations who support the arts, the Philharmonic generated more than $2.4 million. And an additional $50,000 matching grant came from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority.

Force mentioned that the renovation and expansion will make the building’s second-level educational space “much more pleasant” because an outdated, inefficient healing and cooling system will be replaced.

Force is more than just the builder for the orchestra’s newly expanded space. He is a long-time concert attendee and supporter — and a big believer in music for youth. He added that he was particularly enthusiastic to see the Haddad’s grandchildren at the groundbreaking in April.

“This is partly for them — and children like them,” he said.

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Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s arts and events space project


Cost in millions


Building’s square footage


Years the Philharmonic has been in the building


Levels of the building

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For more on the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, visit thecip.org.

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To view more photos of the project, visit therepublic.com