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Commons history 2009

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Editor's Note: As part of a commemorative section on the grand reopening of The Commons, we compiled clips from some of the most important stories about The Commons in our electronic library. Here are some of the highlights from 2009.

January 19, 2009

Management sought for site

A search is under way for a person or company to manage The Commons when it opens in 2011.

Columbus Area Arts Council, which oversaw programming before the old Commons fell last year, wants its name in the mix.

“We already have the clientele,” said Warren Baumgart, the Arts Council’s executive director.

The Arts Council has operated temporarily on the second story of 413 Third St., but it needs permanent offices such as those it had at the old Commons.

January 21, 2009

$9M Commons bond gets initial OK

Columbus property owners’ $9 million contribution toward a future Commons has cleared the first of two City Council readings.

About 120 people attended the meeting Tuesday in which council members unanimously OK’d the bond, which would add about $16 to the average person’s tax bill, according to city officials.

State law requires that the bond has to be approved a second time before bidding can begin.

“I’m excited to get to this point,” said Ed Curtin, director of the city Redevelopment Commission, just after the 5-0 vote.

Several people spoke in favor of the project. Some said it is crucial to future investment, and others hailed it as the heart of an already special city.

One man praised developers for planning energy efficient designs and materials, but he stressed that more could be done.

January 21, 2009

Opponent of using bonds by city wants remonstrance

An opponent of Columbus’ use of taxpayer-backed bonds to help pay for a new Commons has promised a remonstrance.

“The city cannot afford to build this right now,” Mike Lovelace wrote in a Letter to the Editor to The Republic.

Lovelace would have to get at least 100 signatures from city property owners and/or registered voters to force a remonstrance, according to a state law.

The remonstrance process would involve a dueling petition drive between the bond’s supporters and its opponents. The side with the most signatures at the end of a set number of days would be declared the winner.

Lovelace, who would head the remonstrance, said he will not start gathering the initial 100 signatures until next week or later. He wants to sort out legalities and talk about the effort with fellow bond opponents.

After the City Council preliminarily approved a bond in a meeting Tuesday, Columbus Redevelopment Commission Director Ed Curtin said he expected the remonstrance because he had spoken with Lovelace.

Curtin said he is confident the bond issue has a lot of support.

“We’ll deal with it as it comes up,” he said. “He has to get the 100 signatures before anything else.”

February 3, 2009

Commons opponent gathering signatures

Mike Lovelace has begun gathering petition signatures, hoping he can force a remonstrance to stop The Commons project.

Lovelace said he picked up the petitions Friday from the Bartholomew County clerk’s office and obtained about 30 signatures by Monday afternoon.

He was working with other people who also are gathering signatures, although he did not know how many they had obtained.

State law requires at least 100 signatures from city property owners and/or registered voters to force a remonstrance.

The signatures in this case must be in the clerk’s office by 5 p.m. Feb. 23 for verification.

“Oh, I’m very confident,” Lovelace said about his ability to raise the initial 100 signatures.

February 18, 2009

City gives Commons green light

Property owners’ contribution toward a future Commons has won City Council’s formal approval, just as an opponent is preparing to turn in signatures to kick off a remonstrance.

The council members voted 6-0 during a public meeting Tuesday to take out $9 million in public bonds, solidifying their preliminary approval Jan. 21.

City residents would pay back the bonds over 20 years, adding about $16 to the average tax bill if the city landed a 6.7-percent interest rate, city officials said.

The cost would be $15 a year if the city’s current assessed value remains, and up to $17 a year with a 10 percent drop in AV because of foreclosures and businesses closures.

Another $9 million would come from Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, Heritage Fund Community Foundation and a public fund drive, for a total of $18 million.

Plans show The Commons would have performance spaces, an indoor playground, offices and outside-accessible storefronts when it opens in 2011.

February 23, 2009

Signatures filed to stop Commons

Mike Lovelace turned in about 135 signatures Monday to the Bartholomew County Clerk’s Voter Registration office.

His goal: Force a remonstrance in the hope of halting the tax-aided construction of a new Commons.

State law states a total of at least 100 property owners and/or registered voters must sign for the remonstrance to begin.

Lovelace said he thought the clerk would disqualify one group of 25 names because the circulator signed his initials to the document instead of his full name.

“I’ll still have over 100,” he said, adding he is sure the final figure would be enough to move forward on a remonstrance.

February 28, 2009

PAC formed to drive support for Commons

Community supporters of the new Commons have formed a political action committee in response to a potential remonstrance to halt the building’s tax-aided construction.

Save the Commons Now, headed by Dave Barker, plans to spread the message of the Commons’ importance to the community and gain signatures in support of the new building in the case of a remonstrance.

“We want to let people know we care and that (The Commons) is something we want to be replaced,” Barker said.

March 10, 2009

Commons battle puts hotel on hold

Construction of a new hotel and conference center are on hold while the city waits to see if a possible remonstrance sidelines construction of The Commons.

Developer Tim Dora said a successful remonstrance that kills the project for at least a year would force him to look again at building Candlewood Suites and Richard L. Johnson Conference & Education Center.

He said The Commons is “very vital” for his projects, but he stopped short of saying they would not happen without it.

“If people think The Commons is all that’s riding on a remonstrance, then the people are mistaken,” said Tom Vujovich, president of Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

The hotel and conference center were supposed to be mostly done by now, according to original plans presented last year.

But the sites remain bare, along with that of the connected Commons that is supposed to anchor the entire complex.

March 12, 2009

Future of Commons hangs on remonstrance

The certification of 120 petition signatures has cleared the way for a remonstrance against The Commons’ public bond issue.

Bartholomew County Clerk Tami Hines said her office on Wednesday certified the signatures as being from Columbus property owners and/or registered voters.

At least 100 signatures were required.

Proponents and opponents of the $9 million bond issue still have a 30-day cooling-off period before the remonstrance can begin.

Mike Lovelace, who headed the petition drive to force the remonstrance, said he would support The Commons if the tax-increment financing district paid the $9 million, or if an individual put up the money.

The project will cost about $18 million.

March 20, 2009

Commons petitions available April 16

A legal notice that ran in The Republic on Wednesday has launched the 30-day cooling-off period for The Commons remonstrance.

Supporters of the $9 million bond issue have said they will use this time to raise money for advertising and mailings and to train their petition carriers.

Opponents have said they will do nothing while waiting for the dueling-petition phase.

Blank petitions are available starting April 16 in the Bartholomew County Clerk’s office for anyone wanting to carry one, Clerk Tami Hines said.

She said the first day anyone can sign is April 17, and the last day anyone can sign is May 17. Registered voters and/or city property owners are eligible.

If supporters get more signatures than their opponents, the construction can begin. If opponents get more signatures, the project is halted for a year.

April 13, 2009

Solso urges workers to sign pro-Commons petition

Cummins Inc. Chairman and CEO Tim Solso in a letter has encouraged all southern Indiana employees to sign a petition in favor of the Commons project.

Solso wrote that the building plays an important role in the health of the community and the company.

He wrote that although he respects “every employee’s right to come to their own decision,” he encourages all employees “to support the Commons.”

“Cummins has made significant investments in the downtown, which is the core to the future of any community,” Solso wrote.

May 18, 2009

Zero hour arrives for Commons petitions; both sides anxious

For or against the immediate rebuilding of The Commons, the deadline to turn in signed petitions hits at noon today.

Supporters of the $9 million bond issue to help build The Commons are “confident, hopeful and anxious” to find out if they collected enough signatures on their yellow petitions to move the project forward, said Tracy Souza of the “Save the Commons Now” political action committee.

Opponents of the project also wait to learn how many signatures they collected on their blue petitions, as the leader of the remonstrance, Mike Lovelace, remains tight-lipped.

Once the deadline passes, the clerk’s office will certify the registered voters, and the county auditor’s office will certify the property owners to determine which side has collected more signatures and won.

Project supporters started turning in signatures more than a week ago, and Souza said a majority of the supporters’ petitions were turned in Friday.

More likely will arrive before the deadline today thanks to a weekend event at Fourth Street Bar and volunteers’ vigilance to collect as many signatures as possible.

June 8, 2009

Commons backers claim 9,000 of 9,580 signatures

Supporters of a plan to use public tax dollars to help pay for a new Commons are claiming about 9,000 of the 9,580 total signatures submitted for the remonstrance.

Ray Zeigler, who turned in pro-Commons signatures for the “Save the Commons Now” campaign, said he thinks 7,800 signatures of his side’s 9,000 will count.

He submitted them all, he said, because it is the county department’s job to decide which of the signatures are valid.

Mike Lovelace, who headed the opposing side, said he did not know his side’s signature total. He declined to say anything else, declaring again his displeasure with The Republic for editorials in support of the project.

Lovelace triggered the remonstrance in March by collecting 120 signatures. One hundred are required. City officials want city property owners to pay for a $9 million bond issue for the $18 million Commons, with the rest coming from private sources.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission, which heads the Vision 20/20 plan for downtown development, recently asked for companies’ bids for construction.

Commission President Tom Vujovich said the commission would grant a contract only if the remonstrance is defeated.

July 15, 2009

Lowest Commons bids nixed

The two lowest base bidders for The Commons project have asked that their bids be withdrawn from consideration.

That means The Commons will cost at least $620,000 more than the previous low base bid. City officials had opened the bids July 2.

Ed Curtin, executive director of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, presented the withdrawal requests Tuesday to the city’s Board of Public Works and Safety.

Weddle Brothers of Bloomington wants to withdraw its bid of $10.7 million, he said, while Gilliatte General Contractors of Indianapolis wants to withdraw its bid of $10.8 million.

Officials for the companies could not be reached for comment.

Board of Works plans to decide by its July 28 meeting whether to grant the requests. That’s when its members plan to award a contract to one of the last nine companies left standing.

Gibraltar Construction Corp. of Indianapolis would be the new lowest base bidder at $11.4 million. That amount is about $620,000 more than the lowest base bid now.

Tom Vujovich, president of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said the loss of the two lowest base bidders does not necessarily mean the project will cost more than it would have cost otherwise. Bids vary from one alternate to the next, he said, which makes the base bid a starting point only.

July 29, 2009

Local firm wins Commons contract

Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety chose a Columbus construction company to build the new Commons at a cost of $12.4 million, which includes the addition of eight alternate features.

The board Tuesday unanimously accepted Dunlap & Co.’s $12,408,000 bid, which is $342,000 less than the $12.75 million cost estimated by consulting engineers.

“I think this is a monumental day for Columbus. This is a project we’ve been working on for over three years,” said Ed Curtin, executive director of Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

“I think it will make a difference in the lives of the people of Columbus,” he added.

Brian King, president of Dunlap, said construction would start probably in August or September. Dunlap’s bid estimated 540 days — about 18 months — of construction, meaning a finish date of early 2011.

King said he’s excited to continue a long relationship with the city and to provide local workers with jobs.

September 4, 2009

Residents to pay $13 per year

To finance the new Commons, the average homeowner in Columbus will pay $13 extra in property taxes annually for 20 years, with the first payment in 2010, according to Columbus’ financial adviser, Crowe Horwath.

Mike Claytor, a company representative, said Hilliard Lyons of Columbus agreed to provide $9 million in public bonding at 4.71-percent interest.

A “safer” estimate in January assumed an interest rate of more than 6 percent and would have cost taxpayers $15 to $16.

Both calculations assumed the average home here costs $125,000.

Claytor said his team came up with the higher tax estimate when the market was in a freefall and nervous people all but stopped buying bonds as part of their investment portfolios.

A higher tax rate at that time would have been likely, reflecting increased difficulty financial institutions probably would have experienced to sell the bonds.

Today, the market is much better, landing four competitive bids, which, by that time, Crowe Horwath had come to expect.

Hilliard Lyons was the low bidder.

September 4, 2009

Breaking ground on new Commons

Adults and children wearing blue hard hats and holding shiny shovels lined up behind a pile of dirt, just beyond an open gate to the old Commons site.

The audience counted to three, and everyone in the line scooped some dirt and pitched it forward.

Finally, if not officially, construction of the new Commons was on — with actual construction expected to start next week.

“I can’t believe this is actually going to happen this afternoon,” Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong said before the groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

Numerous people attended the 10-minute event, although an actual count was difficult because Neighborfest and the United Way kickoff shared the same section of Washington Street.

Armstrong, who spoke first from a stage next to the site, thanked people who made the project happen and announced The Commons’ indoor playground would be called the “Jim Henderson Playground” because of that man’s contribution.

A former Cummins Inc. chairman, Henderson headed the private sector fund drive for The Commons that raised $3 million.

“We do live in an unexpected, unforgettable community,” Armstrong said, “and we will for many years to come.”

October 11, 2009

Staying the same: No immediate plans in works to change Sears facade

Local residents waiting for the final version of the half-remodeled brown and green glass Sears building downtown are looking at it.

“We don’t plan to change the glass on the rest of the façade,” said Cheryl Buffo, Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation representative and Commons Board president.

Tom Vujovich, president of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, also said there are no immediate plans to alter the original brown glass façade or the red stripe and Sears’ logo on the rest of the building.

When the former Commons Mall and Sears building were separated, a new façade had to be placed on part of the building. That section was designed with green glass to match the rest of the downtown redevelopment in the area, including the new Cummins offices.

“There really was no reason to change the rest of it,” said Cheryl Buffo, community development officer.

“The (Irwin-Sweeney-Miller) Foundation has limited dollars, so we need to make sure we spend them the best way possible.”

Buffo said the cost to finish the building has not been figured since the foundation never planned the renovation.

November 4, 2009

Artistic construction

More than 300 feet of concrete construction barriers and chain-link fence have been transformed into a colorful art project in downtown Columbus.

While residents wait for completion of the new Commons along Washington Street, they can enjoy “Pick-up Sticks,” a creation of Columbus artist Cathe Burris.

PVC tubes in varying lengths were painted bright blue, orange, purple, red and yellow and attached to the fence.

White “dancing Cs” were hand-painted on the concrete barriers, which were stained green.

“We wanted something bright and cheerful for this part of downtown Columbus,” said Warren Baumgart, executive director of Columbus Area Arts Council.

“And we knew Cathe Burris would be the person to make that happen.”

November 15, 2009

Pelli: Commons surpassed original vision

“Heartbreaking” is the word Cesar Pelli uses to describe the decision to gut The Commons building he designed in Columbus almost 40 years ago in favor of a newer version.

But he envisions that his latest project in Columbus — the Advanced Manufacturing Center for Excellence at Columbus Municipal Airport — will spawn other futuristic buildings in the area.

The world-renowned architect made these and other observations during a wide-ranging interview with local residents earlier this month following ground-breaking ceremonies for the teaching facility which will be located in a campus-like complex also occupied by IUPUC, Ivy Tech and the Learning Center.

Participating in the dialogue were Harry McCawley and Chrissy Alspaugh of The Republic; Lynn Lucas of the Columbus Area Visitors Center; Lynn Bigley of the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives; Chris Beach of the Learning Center; and Darin C. Cook, a senior associate in the firm of Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects.

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