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Bob Cseszko has run Bob%u2019s Custom Car Wash for 42 years. His property, east of land once proposed for an indoor/outdoor sports complex, is among the last vestiges of private property along Third Street, east of Bartholomew County Jail. Cseszko was to be neighbors with indoor and outdoor sporting facilities, but now the future of that neighboring tract is clouded.
Mayor Kristen Brown has no idea what the Columbus Redevelopment Commission will do with nearly 10 acres of land the city owns off of Second Street next to the county jail.
Before Brown took office, the property was owned by the nonprofit Columbus Downtown Inc. and was slated for an indoor sports complex. But Brown and the new City Council are dismantling CDI, getting rid of its holdings and influence. The indoor sports complex site was transferred to the Redevelopment Commission.
Brown, who sits on the commission, halted any immediate discussion about the site’s future.
“We can either sell the properties or hold onto them and use them for an incentive for companies to build there,” she said. “It’s all up in the air.”
She added that any semblance of a plan will have to wait until at least the fall, when an appointed committee that is exploring the development of a cultural district downtown proposes how the site along Second Street might fit in to best advantage.
The Redevelopment Commission, which has owned the site for only a few months, is made up of appointments by the mayor and the City Council and is tasked with improving city land usage.
The 9.5-acre site is made up of three adjoining properties: a former creosote plant east of the jail, the old Rhino Linings next to Bob’s Custom Brushed Car Wash & Simoniz Shop and the former REMC buildings west of there. The former creosote plant site had been polluted, but the contamination was contained recently at a cost of about $1.8 million
Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation gave the city the once-contaminated site and adjoining land immediately east of it as a gift. The city obtained the former REMC property in a swap for old airport property that it owned on Deaver Road. It bought the Rhino Linings property outright.
Brown said the city should get back the investment it made in obtaining the REMC and Rhino properties. But she said the city probably is stuck with the lot across Lafayette Street from the jail. Remediation only encased the contamination underground, she said. However, it’s still contaminated, meaning it can only be used for parking above its surface.
Plans there for an indoor sports complex fell through during the last administration when the company decided it couldn’t make the numbers work. Brown said the fact that the city was willing to give the land to the company says something about how hard it will be to unload the land in the future.
Bob Cseszko, who has had the car wash on Second Street for 41 years, said he looks forward to whatever the city comes up with for the properties that surround his business. Almost everyone uses a car, he said, which means almost everyone has a need to get their car washed.
“People are coming to the downtown as it is,” he said, referring to the recent development of The Commons, office complexes, parking garages, restaurants and apartments. “It doesn’t bother me if the rest of it takes a little while.”
Sports tourism, a priority under Armstrong, is not something taxpayers should have to subsidize, Brown said. She said that although sports are valuable and do indeed bring tourism, any development in that regard will have to come from the private sector.
She said an area south of Water Street that once was slated for an outdoor sports complex probably will never see development.
“Given what we know about how it floods, there’s just no way to justify it,” she said.
The development of that property was halted soon after Brown and the City Council took office, over concerns about the flooding, a lawsuit with neighboring Griffin Industries and public outcry over the cost. The city had already borrowed $8.2 million in 2010 for construction of the outdoor complex. The new city council has yet to decide what to do with that money now that the complex will not be built.
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