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Commons history 1999

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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 1999.

March 15, 1999

Greyhound downtown today

By Britt Kennerly

The Republic

Greyhound buses will begin rolling in and out of downtown Columbus seven days a week starting today, with Cummins Book Store owner Pam Brannan serving as the new downtown agent.

News that buses would depart for Louisville and Indianapolis outside The Commons on Fourth Street, rather than from Wendy's at Indiana 46 and Interstate 65, pleases frequent bus riders such as Shermaine Moore of Columbus.

Moore, who hops a Greyhound for Indianapolis at least a couple of times a month, said she thinks the move will make riding a lot easier for many people.

Plus, she said, they can catch city buses to The Commons.

"It will make it a lot more convenient, and people can wait inside The Commons," Moore said as she waited for the Indy-bound bus at Wendy's Saturday morning. "And, I'll save the $8 it takes me to get a cab out here to this side of town."

The downtown location, said Brannan, will offer tickets, schedules and package delivery service.

Cummins Book Store, at 406 Washington St., is just around the corner from the stop. Greyhounds are scheduled to stop behind city buses at The Commons, where they will wait 15 minutes before departures.

The schedule: People and packages headed to Indianapolis will leave at 10:40 a.m., the time at which buses have, in the past, left from Wendy's. Buses to Indianapolis make a quick stop in Franklin and arrive about 11:45 a.m. at Union Station in Indianapolis.

May 5, 1999

Cinco de Mayo celebrates Mexican victory of 1862

By Doug Showalter

Today marks a new celebration for Columbus, never a city to miss a chance to party for a good cause.

This evening the community will hold its first Cinco de Mayo celebration from 5:30 to 8 at The Commons.

Cinco de Mayo, or May 5 in English, commemorates the victory of the Mexican Army over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.

Su Casa—Columbus is one of the sponsors of today's free party. Su Casa is the new center opening Thursday at 1871 State St. to provide services to the community's rapidly growing Hispanic population.

Today's celebration and Thursday's grand opening also are the culmination of a lot of work by many people, but none more than Juana Watson.

The longtime Columbus resident was born in Mexico and has been working tirelessly for about a year to make the community aware of the growing Hispanic population and the need to respond.

"I'm really happy that my efforts over so many months are paying off," she said.

Watson has been spreading her message so diligently that she feared she was making some people angry.

"At first they didn't want to hear it," she said. "People need to realize that this is a very serious change in the community."

September 8, 1999

Osco Drug leaving downtown

By Sabine Vollmer

The Republic

Osco Drug, one of the original tenants in the Commons Mall, will close its downtown store next month.

A sign posted at the store's pharmacy Tuesday said prescriptions will be transferred to the Osco store at Clover Center on the east side of Columbus. The Clover Center store will become a 24-hour pharmacy, the sign said.

The Osco store in Commons Mall will close Oct. 14.

"We're obviously very disappointed," said Sarla Kalsi, president and chief executive officer of Irwin Management Co., which operates the Commons Mall.

"They're a good tenant, and we're sorry to see them leave."

The store opened with the mall 26 years ago. Its closing will leave a 13,145-square-foot vacancy at a time when The Commons has had trouble retaining merchants.

Prospects of losing the only pharmacy in downtown Columbus came as a shock to Nettie McCullough, a senior citizen who has bought her medication at the store for about 20 years.

McCullough said she was standing in line at the store's cash register and overheard the cashier talk about the upcoming closing.

Because she lives at Fifth and Pearl streets, a 10-minute walk from the downtown Osco store, she had the cashier confirm that she had heard correctly.

"I was really ticked," McCullough said.

She and other seniors, who don't drive and live downtown in the Armory, Sycamore Place or Town Gardens apartments, depend on Osco to buy their medication and a few grocery items, she said.

September 23, 1999

Commons Mall for sale

By Sabine Vollmer

The Republic

Irwin Management Co. is offering to sell The Commons Mall for $3.4 million.

The company, which owns and operates the 150,614-square-foot downtown mall in Columbus, listed the property with Marcus and Millichap, an Indianapolis real estate brokerage.

Osco Drug's upcoming store closing prompted Irwin Management to consider the sale of the mall, said Sarla Kalsi, president and chief executive officer. Other options under consideration include hiring a management company, finding a replacement for Osco or partnering with another investor.

"We will be willing to consider the sale of the mall if (that) strengthens the downtown," Kalsi said.

"But you may not see any change at all. We're exploring all the options."

The mall adjoins The Commons, which would not be included in the sale.

Merchants who lease stores found out Wednesday the mall is for sale.

Although they were concerned new owners may raise the rent or negotiate less favorable lease agreements, store owners Terry Whittaker of Viewpoint Books, Dale Harrison of Bresler's Ice Cream and Yogurt, and Paul Warren of Daniel's Jewelry said they plan to keep their shops open.

"Maybe we can get somebody in here who can turn (the mall) around, if Irwin Management can't do it," Harrison suggested.

Whittaker, whose book store is one of four original tenants remaining in the 26-year-old mall, said he believed Irwin Management would sell the mall only to a buyer who would follow its management footsteps.

"I have enough faith in them that they're not going to sell it just to sell it," Whittaker said.

September 24, 1999

IMAC celebrates 25 years of art, Miller's generosity

By Brian Blair

The Republic

Sometimes, inspiration zaps Xenia Miller in an unexpected flash — and in unexpected places.

Consider a vacation in Florida with husband J. Irwin Miller several years ago. As the couple drove past a small art shop, Xenia Miller spotted a splashy, colorful work that immediately captured her attention.

"Stop the car," she said.

Moments later, after the pair agreed that the painting matched the motif of the entryway of their home on Highland Way, she purchased the contemporary work by San Francisco artist Sam Francis.

The painting, featuring large splashes of yellow, orange and more, today matches its surroundings, including a contemporary rug with yellow and orange elements, quite well.

"Obviously, that one goes here," says Miller with a smile, "because we don't have yellow and orange in other parts of the house."

A substantial impact

Obviously, Miller knows how art colors the world. Today, as the Indianapolis Museum of Art-Columbus Gallery frames its 25th anniversary, Miller stands as a key figure in its history.

Her $1 million gift to the museum in 1993 made its current quarters in The Commons mezzanine a reality. But her impact stretches to the museum's foundation.

In 1974, Indianapolis Museum of Art Director Carl Weinhardt Jr. approached Miller about launching a satellite museum here. Weinhardt considered Columbus for the branch partly because he often visited his grandparents, former Mayor Karl Volland and his wife, Lillian, here.

September 27, 1999

What fate awaits Commons?

By Sabine Vollmer

The Republic

How about turning The Commons Mall into an indoor soccer arena?

A day-care center? A senior center?

How about taking a cue from Nashville and leasing retail space to Mom-and-Pop variety stores?

Columbus has been buzzing with ideas to revitalize the mall since local real estate brokers, downtown merchants and public officials learned the property is for sale.

"I'd love to see something positive happening there," said Mark Pratt, president of Breeden Inc. Realtors/Developers.

"But unless some white knight comes along, it's going to be difficult."

Irwin Management Co., which has owned and operated the 150,614-square-foot downtown mall since it opened in 1973, recently listed the property with Marcus and Millichap, an Indianapolis real estate brokerage.

Asking price is $3.4 million.

The Commons, which adjoins the mall, is not included in the sale. Built as an area for community activities, The Commons is owned by the city and run by the Commons Board and Columbus Area Arts Council.

Difficulties to find and keep retail tenants in the mall prompted Irwin Management to seek offers from investors. The latest store in the mall scheduled to close is Osco Drug.

Kahlil K. Barnard of Marcus and Millichap said the brokerage firm has begun to investigate potential buyers and ideas to market The Commons Mall.

But with research in its infancy, Barnard declined to suggest a possible selling strategy.

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