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Commons history 2007

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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 2007.

January 8, 2007

Rebuilding means nearly all must close

Viewpoint Books was part of The Commons when renowned architect Cesar Pelli built it in 1973.

But the locally owned store will have to close just like most other building tenants this year when walls start to fall at The Commons.

Tim Vujovich, president of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said construction is scheduled to begin in July on Candlewood Suites, which will connect to the building's west side.

That will knock out heating and air to most building areas, except for Sears, which is on a system apart from the rest of the building, and possibly YES Cinema, which is expected to connect to Sears' system.

All businesses and organizations east from YES Cinema to Washington Street will have to close until the entire Commons is rebuilt, which could take three years.

Preliminary plans show the building with retail space along Fourth and Washington streets. Vujovich said business owners and organizations are welcome to rent.

In the meantime, they have to decide whether to move or close while the building transforms.

January 31, 2007

Commons construction delayed 6 mos.

The timetable for a second downtown hotel and reconfiguration of the Commons has been changed by project organizers who plan to begin construction at year-end.

The new timetable gives tenants of the downtown complex an extra six months to make short- and long-term plans and provides a greater opportunity for city officials to solicit and gauge opinion as to what would be the most desirable features to retain or add in the public area of the Commons.

The tenants had originally been given a July start date at which time they would have had to vacate their spaces. Officials also set that as a benchmark for activities in the public area, not accepting any reservations after that date.

With the new schedule, organizations will be able to schedule activities in the Commons until the end of the year.

Key to the change in plans was agreement by Tim Dora, developer of the planned Candlewood Suites, which would occupy space on the Fourth Street side of the building east of Jackson Street, and the Intercontinental Hotels Group which sold the franchise to Dora.

"We couldn't have done this without Tim," said Sarla Kalsi, president of Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation, which owns the portion of the building on which the hotel will be built. "We had to wait on making this announcement until he had also secured agreement from the Intercontinental Group."

February 23, 2007

Commons survey: Chaos, playground should remain

The playground, stage and "Chaos" sculpture should remain parts of The Commons when it is rebuilt, according to information gathered in an interactive survey.

Where those amenities are situated within the structure is unimportant.

About 60 people came to The Commons at noon Thursday to express opinions on what role the building should fill in a revitalized downtown.

A remote control was given to each person, and each was asked to rank preferences from 1 to 5 on what to include in the building, with 5 being the highest.

Vote percentages were displayed with a projector onto a screen, showing the consensus in seconds.

The interactive session was among three that day intended to give the public a chance to express its opinions.

March 3, 2007

Stevens to lead, form Commons committee

Bob J. Stevens has been appointed to assemble and lead a committee that will deal solely with redefining The Commons' role in a revitalized downtown Columbus.

The former owner of Impact Forge Inc. recently contacted Vision 20/20 leaders to offer his help with The Commons project, said Ed Curtin, executive director of the city's Redevelopment Commission.

Curtin said the commission by that time already was thinking about the need for a group to concentrate on The Commons.

The building is considered the pivotal piece of downtown development, and Curtin said its renovation deserves special attention.

Vision 20/20, part of Columbus' comprehensive plan, also includes the construction of a parking garage, two hotels, housing and an indoor sports complex.

"I feel strongly about The Commons as an important part of this community," said Stevens, who is senior vice president of Impact Forge owner Hephaestus Holdings Inc. of Novi, Mich.

"My goal is to help preserve, rebuild and improve this beautiful area so that the community can continue to enjoy it for generations."

He said the building should remain Columbus' main meeting facility. He said he is eager for the public's suggested uses, and he hopes the end product will inspire pride.

March 11, 2007

Gifting of mall on hold

Discussions about "gifting" the Commons Mall to Columbus Redevelopment Commission were just beginning in November before Sears sued to suspend construction of Hotel Indigo.

Sarla Kalsi, president of Irwin Management Co., said mall owner Irwin Sweeney Miller Foundation did not want to give away a property with the baggage of an unresolved lawsuit.

She would not say if consideration would commence when the issue is settled; however, she said previously ISMF "cannot be in the development business" as mall renovation progresses.

Redevelopment Commission President Tom Vujovich said the gifting idea likely would be reconsidered when the litigation ends, because it appears beneficial.

He said the Redevelopment Commission would be adopting a tremendous asset by which it would have full control during sweeping changes in downtown Columbus.

Sears, The Commons Mall's original anchor store, contends in federal court documents its lease with the mall has been breached.

It contends the construction of Hotel Indigo and other mall-renovation plans are incompatible with and unsupportive of Sears' business.

March 25, 2007

Museum mulls future away from Commons

Columbus Museum of Art & Design leaders are considering a range of options for a future apart from The Commons, slated to close for revamping at year's end.

No one knows how long that building will be closed — or if its redesign even will include a museum space.

So museum board members are asking the public to help them examine possibilities. That will be part of the focus of the museum's annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Yes Cinema.

Cost is $10. The gathering is open to anyone interested in the visual arts.

Board President Beth Stroh wants to hear what people want.

"We are hopeful that people will come and offer us some input," said Stroh. "We'll focus on what people perceive will be a good fit for the museum as we go forward."

April 19, 2007

Viewpoint leaving Commons: Daniel's Jewelry also to relocate

Two of the first tenants of The Commons Mall will be moving permanently to other downtown locations.

Viewpoint Books and Daniel's Jewelry have signed leases to occupy retail space at Sixth and Washington streets.

The location for many years housed Nelson's Bible Mart and in recent years, Family Christian Store.

The Commons Mall will close at year's end for revamping.

The upper level of the old Odd Fellows Building has been renovated into a residential space called The Lofts.

July 10, 2007

$5M required to renovate Commons

The Commons would cost $5 million to renovate if city officials decided to bypass plans to replace it, according to details shared during a public meeting Monday.

Ed Curtin, director of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said estimated costs of rebuilding should be available in a month.

That would provide a basis for officials to begin figuring which option is more practical, keeping mindful that a renovated facility would not serve its purpose as well as a newly built facility.

Monday's meeting at City Hall, which attracted about 20 people, was intended to help the Columbus City Council and public understand The Commons' condition.

"We need to understand that before we answer any other questions," Curtin said.

"Our next step is to decide what we should do and when we should do it."

The Commons is considered the vital piece of Vision 20/20, an initiative intended to revitalize downtown with new businesses, a parking garage, two new hotels and maybe a sports complex.

August 30, 2007

Commons division plan OK'd

The Commons board of directors on Wednesday approved a plan to redraw and simplify the property division between the Commons' city-owned and commercial sections.

Ed Curtin, director of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said the resolution will clean up the property line and provide flexibility for plans that could include renovating or rebuilding the downtown mall.

As part of the resolution, the board and the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation would exchange equal amounts of property.

The city owns the public portion, and the foundation owns the commercial section.

October 23, 2007

Commons Cinema closes; workers rip out equipment

The Commons Cinema, one of the first tenants of the downtown mall when it opened 35 years ago, closed Sunday.

Workers were removing equipment Monday from the theater that in recent years offered an inexpensive entertainment option with bargain-priced movies.

Management at YES Cinema, also in the downtown mall, already was investigating the possibility of picking up the void by offering more movies.

Sharon Renfro, manager of The Commons Mall, said the closing happened a little sooner than she expected.

"It came as kind of a surprise for me," said Renfro, who was sorry to see the longtime theater close.

"I think it attracted a lot of people, and it was definitely a family spot," she said.

People would tell Renfro that for less than $10 they could take their family to a movie and let their children play at the playground.

November 15, 2007

Old building to close Dec. 31; new sites planned for 2009, '10

The Commons and adjoining Commons Mall will go to sleep Dec. 31 and awaken with a clear-glass exterior, a larger playground, an extended-stay hotel and maybe a hotel conference center.

Conceptual floor plans show where those amenities would go, although officials said those details have evolved and might change again as construction nears.

Preliminary plans call for the hotel, Candlewood Suites, to open in early 2009 and for the city-owned building section to open in the spring of 2010.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission and The Commons Board will ask Columbus City Council at a Dec. 4 meeting to allow the existing building to be demolished and rebuilt around the existing "superstructure."

Cesar Pelli, a renowned architect, built that superstructure, which is like a steel skeleton.

Redevelopment Commission President Tom Vujovich said the renovation, or Band-Aid approach, as he calls it, should be rejected because of maintenance costs.

Officials have said renovation would cost $5 million initially and another $5 million during the next three to five years. Demolition and rebuilding would cost about $18 million.

November 20, 2007

Redevelopment group agrees on mall demolition

Crews would demolish most of The Commons and adjoining Commons Mall from Jackson Street to Washington Street under a plan to be presented Dec. 4 to Columbus City Council.

Columbus Redevelopment commissioners agreed on the action during a meeting Monday. If adopted, the plan would assure a new Commons would rise in its place, Redevelopment Commission Director Ed Curtin said.

The work would leave standing the building's superstructure skeleton, which renowned architect Cesar Pelli created in the 1970s.

It also would end discussion about renovating the existing building, which officials have called a "Band-Aid" approach to maintenance issues which, even if solved, leaves the community with an outdated building.

City Attorney Tim Coriden said the issue must be settled as to whether the City Council or Commons Board has authority to approve the Redevelopment Commission's recommendation.

December 3, 2007

City to clarify funding for new Commons

The amount Columbus City Council can contribute toward a new Commons is expected to be clarified Tuesday.

Councilman George Dutro said he and his counterparts would discuss the city's bonding capacity and what they feel comfortable giving.

The bonding capacity is about $10 million, but the council has "never been known to extend" resources to that extent, said City Clerk Treasurer Brenda Sullivan.

Members expect to take no formal action on the matter in Tuesday's meeting.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission members will talk about a plan to tear down The Commons, except for the C sar Pelli superstructure skeleton, and open a new Commons in 2010.

December 5, 2007

Council approves Commons project

A plan to tear down most of the old Commons and build a new one in its place has won Columbus City Council's support.

During a Tuesday meeting, council members voted 7-0 to back the plan, which The Commons Board formally accepted last week.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission, which leads the downtown revitalization effort, wanted City Council backing to give weight to the Commons Board's decision.

The City Council did not discuss how much money it would give toward the new construction, estimated at $18 million.

Redevelopment Commission Executive Director Tom Vujovich said the council would be asked to discuss that in a later meeting.

Project leaders have anticipated a public-private split, with City Council giving some of the funds and private donors and foundations providing the rest.

Columbus Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Sullivan said city government has $12.74 million in bonding capacity.

December 11, 2007

Office of 250 to 500 eyes Commons

The Commons Mall is being considered by a major manufacturer as the site for a four-story office complex that could employ up to 500 people, according to officials with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission.

Tom Vujovich, president of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said that he expects the company, which he declined to name, to make an announcement before the end of the year.

"We are one of a number of other communities that are under consideration for this project," Vujovich said. "Obviously, if the Commons site is selected, it will have a profound and very positive impact on the downtown."

Part of that effect will be the sudden infusion of a work force of 250 to 500.

"These will be well-paying jobs," said Ed Curtin, executive director of the commission.

Officials estimated the average annual salary would be in the $50,000 range.

December 27, 2007

New Year's party to be Commons' last hurrah

Piano man Terry Clark of the XLs already knows what the band will play to finally drop the emotional curtain on the soon-to-be-demolished Commons: Johnny Burnette's 1950s hit, "Tear It Up."

"We can jokingly tell the crowd, ‘If you tear up the dance floor (dancing), you may just save the city some (demolition) money,'" said Clark with a chuckle.

The notes of that tune will rise about 1 a.m. Tuesday during the final moments of "Bringin' Down the House," the end-of-the-year, end-of-The-Commons bash beginning at 6 p.m. Monday. Columbus native Clark and band mates expect to feel a range of emotions linked to the 34-year-old building scheduled to be rebuilt as an $18 million project by 2010.

For instance, Clark's daughter appeared in style shows on the Commons stage. His mother performed in plays there. And his brother has played music gigs there, as Clark has himself.

"I'm really kind of honored to be a part of the very last act," he said.

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