Development of a new $13 million assisted-living center on the site of the former Golden Castings foundry would provide a needed service, city officials said.
The assisted-living center, focusing on memory care, would be developed by WDG Construction Group Inc. of Indianapolis. Before the project will go forward, however, the company and city of Columbus are seeking a grant from the state Automotive Sector Brownfields Assessment Initiative program — money set aside to help redevelop vacant properties formerly used by the automotive industry.
At the Columbus site, the developer and city hope to do a two-phase environmental study of the suspected pollution at the property.
Although the site was used as a foundry for more than 80 years and was well known locally for the debris and acidic liquid it sprayed into the sky, there is no record of a true environmental analysis of the portion of the property where the heaviest foundry work was done.
Studies for a neighboring property, slated for an affordable-apartment complex, revealed that significant contamination could be alleviated by bringing in several feet of fresh fill dirt.
Community Development Director Carl Malysz said the city hopes to receive $50,000 to $100,000 for the studies, which will quantify the amounts and types of pollution at the site.
Rob Tolle, vice president of business development for WDG, said the company’s development plans will hinge on results of the study.
“Nobody wants to bring grandma or grandpa to a site that has serious pollution,” he said.
A market study revealed that Columbus was in need of a facility that would provide assisted living for those with memory ailments such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The company has been looking for at least a five-acre site on which to build its facility, and the former foundry site was conveniently located close to downtown and Columbus Regional Hospital, Tolle said. WDG proposes building the center on the northwestern portion of the former foundry site.
Tolle said that the possibility of incentives from the state and city was a factor in the decision to locate at the former foundry site, but the company plans to build somewhere in Columbus regardless.
The planned facility would house about 84 people and the exterior would be a mix of bricks and cedar planks, Tolle said. Inside, he said, the finishing would be equivalent to a four- or five-star hotel.
The company has built similar facilities for other organizations without holding any ownership interest. However, it is now developing several facilities of its own around the state.
Just to the south of the planned site are two more parcels, which the company is considering developing into a park setting for the public and for the residents of the facility, giving family members a place to take their relative during visits.
Depending on results of the grant application and the subsequent environmental study, the facility could start construction as early as this fall, Tolle said.