January 8, 2006
Renowned architect Cesar Pelli remembers fondly the pride he felt in 1973 when the Courthouse Center opened in Columbus.
Known dually today as The Commons and The Commons Mall, the building still is among the Argentina native's "dearest projects."
He designed it early in his career, and it is the only place he ever built in Indiana, he said from his office in New Haven, Conn.
But the building's future has been thrown in doubt because of the Vision 20/20 downtown plan and a chance traditional funding for the building's public section will be reduced or even eliminated.
The Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation in October bought the retail wing, The Commons Mall, with the intention of expanding and perhaps changing it to be an important component in Vision 20/20, Columbus' sweeping plan for downtown rejuvenation. Highlights include construction of a hotel, a parking garage and a sports complex.
ISMF also is the primary financial contributor to the building's city-owned wing, The Commons. ISMF has promised about $382,000 in 2006, which would cover about 90 percent of expenses.
But ISMF President Sarla Kalsi said ISMF has told The Commons Board of Directors to start weaning itself from heavy reliance on foundation funding.
That puts the city and The Commons Board in the position of finding other funding sources, which in turn puts its future in the hands of taxpayers.
April 8, 2006
A dance studio, convenience store, art shop and photography studio have announced plans to move into the downtown Commons Centre.
SIHO Insurance Services also plans to convert the old license branch into office space.
Ron Sewell, SIHO senior vice president, said 100 people work at the corporate office at 417 Washington St. and the company needs more space.
"We are continuing to grow and are committed to downtown," Sewell said.
SIHO leases a smaller place at the mall with 16 employees, but will have about 24 workers in the new space.
Claudette Hayward, management and marketing assistant at the Commons Centre, said several changes are planned in coming months.
Some remodeling has begun by tenants who plan to open this month or in May.
May 31, 2006
A 90-suite hotel has been proposed for the central portion of the Commons Mall, between Sears and the public area off Washington Street.
Construction costs are estimated at $7 million or more.
It's the second new hotel planned in downtown Columbus, both by InterContinental Hotels Group.
Officials are re-evaluating plans for a parking garage in the city lot on Jackson Street between Fourth and Fifth streets to determine whether it would be big enough for the new development.
Preliminary plans for the second hotel, Candlewood Suites, call for a 90-suite complex over four floors. The ground floor would consist of a lobby and retail space, which would be leased to businesses such as restaurants, shops, and bars.
Mayor Fred Armstrong, co-chairman of the Vision 20/20 committee studying downtown improvements, emphasized that the hotel plans would not affect the public space portion of the Commons on Washington Street.
"We are committed to continued use of that area, especially the playground and meeting areas," the mayor said.
August 25, 2006
Local leaders are considering moving a planned adult community center from Mill Race Park to The Commons Centre as part of a larger hotel and downtown development plan.
The move would help what has been known as the Mill Race Center get City Council financial support, according to Mayor Fred Armstrong.
He said that, unless the center is included as part of another downtown project, the council probably would decline backing it because of limited funds for many planned building ideas.
Armstrong said a move, then, could help the project advance as a city priority.
Also, state law limits the city to $12.9 million in bonding capacity while the city has "about $50 million worth of needs and wants," said Armstrong.
"So we want to maximize our bonding capacity."
Maybe the best way to do that, he said, is to try whenever possible to group projects.
"Now, if that works," Armstrong said, "then it works. If it doesn't work, then we'll do something else."
Architects are expected to visit here the second week of September to examine options.
Without changing plans, Armstrong said the original Mill Race Center could be set aside and delayed for years.
September 7, 2006
A crowd of about 100 older people told Senior Center Services of Bartholomew County board members that it doesn't like the possibility of a new adult community center at The Commons.
Two people, including Suzanne Smith, drew applause with their passionate comments at a 90-minute meeting Wednesday afternoon at the current center.
"I'm shocked at the response of our leadership," said Smith. "I'm appalled that we're even considering this.
"What other group in this town has raised 50 percent of the cost of their capital improvement project? Name me one.
"Frankly, The Commons is a retail dead horse. Why do we have to be the ones to save it?"
Mayor Fred Armstrong two weeks ago asked senior center officials to consider moving the planned Mill Race Center from Mill Race Park to a revamped Commons featuring a downtown hotel.
September 20, 2006
Taxpayers will pick up a little less than half the operating expenses of The Commons Mall next year, replacing money lost through a tapering of private funds.
In a meeting Tuesday, Mike Keogh presented to The Commons Board a grant proposal to Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation according to which the city would pay $200,000 of the $479,018 total budget.
The proposal would ask ISMF to pay $226,138, with the remaining $52,880 to come from a balance at the end of 2006.
ISMF was scheduled to consider the grant request and report back to the board next week, board President David Doup said.
Keogh said more of the expense had to be moved to taxpayers because ISMF, which has paid nearly all the facility's operating expenses since 1973, insisted The Commons Board reduce its requests starting in 2007.
That board viewed the ISMF request as reasonable because the city always has owned the building's front section, which includes a playground, public gathering areas and a mezzanine.
The city plans to up its 2008 contribution to $400,000, making it The Commons' main funding source for operating expenses and ending ISMF's financial involvement.
October 3, 2006
A new conceptual layout for The Commons calls for a merging of public and private facilities in a plan designed to make the site a magnet for the community.
Tim Dora, who owns Dora Brothers Hospitality Corp. of Fishers, has pledged to make Candlewood Suites hotel part of the multimillion-dollar building.
"We're on board and ready to go," Dora said. "There's a lot of synergy here we want to be a part of."
Dora until Monday said only that his company was considering The Commons as a possible site. He said his commitment is final no matter how the concept changes.
Under the proposal, the building would be split into two parts at Jackson Street, opening the street to through traffic and separating Sears and Yes Cinema from the main part of the building.
Drawings prepared by Koetter Kim & Associates of Boston propose the hotel go on The Commons' northwest side, the Adult Community Center on the southwest side and a parking garage for the Adult Community Center on the first floor, for example.
The exterior predominantly would be clear glass with metal beams, mainly along Washington Street.
"Those are some of the big changes we're looking at," said Tom Vujovich, president of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, which is spearheading the effort.
Columbus Museum of Art and Design and Columbus Area Arts Council would be absorbed in the building, although they are not listed on the conceptual map, Vujovich said.
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