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January 1, 2008
Mary Jo Cusano stood on the playground floor, video recorder in hand, capturing images of her grandson swooshing down the slide.
She wanted final pictures of Braden Cusano, 2 , enjoying another trip to The Commons to romp and play, before the doors closed on an era.
"He loves to come here and play. I just wanted to wrap it up. I've got a lot of pictures of him here," said Cusano, a 15-year resident of Columbus.
At least a thousand people came to The Commons Monday evening to relive moments from their lives and bid farewell to the 34-year-old public venue and mall, which will be redeveloped and reopened in stages over the next two years.
A spotlight on Washington Street alerted everyone that The Commons was the place to be, and the New Year's Eve celebration offered a bit of everything for everybody.
Parents sat and watched their children play on the playground.
Balloon animals, face painting, bean bag tossing and remote control NASCAR cars provided fun and entertainment for children.
Kids and adults enjoyed free showings of "Shrek the Third" and "Star Wars" at Yes Cinema.
Maggie McCall, an employee at Yes Cinema, said the final show of the night, a second showing of "Shrek," was expected to be sold out.
McCall, 17, a junior at Columbus East, said she was glad a farewell was planned because The Commons has been a part of her life while growing up.
"My friend and I took our last ride on the elevator today," McCall said.
January 8, 2008
Two companies will lead a team of subcontractors to develop detailed construction plans for The Commons.
CSO Architects of Indianapolis and Koetter Kim of Boston were selected during a Columbus Redevelopment Commission meeting Monday.
They will lead 12 subcontractors who specialize in disciplines ranging from electrical and surveying to accessibility and acoustics, said commission Executive Director Ed Curtin.
He said renowned architect Cesar Pelli, who designed The Commons' original steel frame, recommended Koetter Kim, and CSO has helped the commission with other large projects.
The Redevelopment Commission voted to allow commission President Tom Vujovich to sign a $1.7 million contract to develop the plans.
January 11, 2008
Workers wheeled out stacks of tables and chairs from The Commons and loaded them on flatbed trucks.
Inside the mall, crews removed small amounts of asbestos around the former kidscommons, a safety step before expected demolition next month.
Building manager Sharon Renfro said people have been photographing the salvageable items, including playground equipment, which will be for sale as early as next week on the auction site purplewave.com.
Thursday featured the most activity so far at The Commons since it closed Jan. 1. Renfro said everything must be out by Jan. 21.
"We had the ATM guy come in and take out the ATM machine," Renfro said. "A lot has gone on today, and there's a lot to do."
The 34-year-old building, which combines the city-owned Commons along Washington Street with the privately owned Commons Mall, will be rebuilt and reopened in stages over about two years.
January 17, 2008
Columbus City Council informally committed Wednesday night to $6 million for reconstruction of The Commons.
The project, estimated to cost $18 million, will replace the public space at the front of the building on Washington Street between Third and Fourth streets. That building also contains the privately owned Commons Mall.
"This is our town square, and we need to be on board," said member Joe Richardson.
No vote was taken on the city's financial commitment, but all City Council members indicated their support.
Officials said that while the city has $12.74 million in bonding capacity, some should remain for emergencies.
Mayor Fred Armstrong said it is unclear how the city will fund the $6 million, but general obligation bonds could be used.
February 3, 2008
A commitment of $9 million by the three largest foundations of Bartholomew County has launched a community fund drive to rebuild the public portion of The Commons.
Armed with an additional commitment of $6 million by Mayor Fred Armstrong and the Columbus City Council, organizers of the fund drive hope to raise $3 million from the public in a campaign led by Jim Henderson, a retired chairman of Cummins Inc. and community activist.
The $18 million project is one part of an ambitious plan for the downtown outlined by Vision 20/20, a group of community leaders intent on revitalizing the area.
"Through these foundation grants, every dollar given by an individual, business of organization will be worth $4," said Sherry Stark, president of the Heritage Fund, the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.
The Heritage Fund, the Cummins Foundation and the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation each committed $3 million to the undertaking.
The Heritage Fund also has agreed to lead the community campaign, to be named "A Cause in Common."
February 5, 2008
Crews will begin demolishing the Commons Mall within the next two weeks.
Columbus Redevelopment Commission, Monday approved demolition beginning at the corner of Third and Jackson streets sometime around Feb. 15. Crews will work their way north and east, with demolition expected to be complete by mid-April.
Commissioners also passed a resolution to enter into contract with the Commons Board to oversee the demolition project and ultimate reconstruction.
City Council is expected to approve a similar agreement within the next two to three weeks, giving the Redevelopment Commission responsibility for the project.
The demolition will be paid for by Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation.
The city-owned Commons and privately owned Commons Mall are projected to reopen by 2010 with an extended-stay hotel, offices for Cummins employees and more.
February 9, 2008
"Chaos I," Jean Tinguely's 6-ton, 30-foot kinetic sculpture, soon will sport an addition - a steel covering to protect it while The Commons around it is demolished and rebuilt.
The Commons Board recently made the decision. A final cost has not been determined.
"That's a moving target," said David Doup, president of The Commons Board.
The work on the steel covering should begin next week and be completed by month's end, according to Doup.
"'Chaos' will be a key part of the new project," he said.
February 27, 2008
The metal claw dug into the twisting wreckage like an eager child's hand through a cereal box.
Each swipe showered material to the scrap-strewn ground, tearing out sections like chapters of an old book coming to an end.
The Commons Mall has seen four Columbus mayors and seven U.S. presidents since it opened in 1973. For the last few weeks, it has become a demolition site as city leaders look to rebuild the downtown hub for the new generation.
Plans call for demolition to conclude in early March and construction to finish by 2010.
Workers from Indianapolis' Focus Contractors used excavators Tuesday to burrow east into the building from where it splits from the formerly adjoining YES Cinema, SIHO and Sears, which remain open today.
That "split" is where Jackson Street, for the first time in 35 years, will extend through the block between Third and Fourth streets.
An excavator-like shearer cut fallen metal into pieces with its scissor arm, making the pieces manageable for Kroot Corp. to haul off the busy site for recycling.
A truck from Bishop Trucking Co. heaved concrete and other nonrecyclable wreckage to the Bartholomew County Landfill.
"We recycle everything that we can," said Focus Contractors employee Cathy Perry, who supervised the site in her husband's absence.
March 14, 2008
Performance spaces. A rooftop garden with benches. Cozy views of “Chaos” from the first and second floors. A tree-decorated playground divided for use by older and younger children.
The latest drawings for a new Commons were displayed Thursday during a presentation and open house at Columbus City Hall.
More than 100 people attended, some staying after the presentation to study a miniature model and drawings that lined the walls.
The design was based on input from nearly 3,000 community members. Officials gathered suggestions last spring via telephone, Web site and public event surveys, according to a press release.
Fred Koetter of Boston-based Koetter Kim Architects and Steve Risting of Indianapolis-based CSO Architects stressed the design is far from official.
May 14, 2008
The $3 million public fund drive to rebuild The Commons began Tuesday with a look into the future and emphasis on its broad impact.
“This project will have a huge, positive impact on our community for the next 10, 20, 30 years and beyond,” said Mickey Kim, chairman of a committee leading the drive. “Wouldn’t it be great if we can look back then, and proudly tell … how the community came together and built a great new gathering place, a new living room?”
The push is known as A Cause In Common. It technically began a few months ago, and already is off to a strong start, according to Kim and others.
The project took center stage Tuesday afternoon at Yes Cinema during the annual meeting of The Heritage Fund: The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.
The theme focused on collaboration, which marks The Commons work. Jeff Brown, chairman of The Heritage Fund’s board, mentioned that moving in tandem with others on any effort is a key.
“Even small contributions can improve the quality of life of our community in big ways when we work together,” said Brown, who also is chief executive officer of Home News Enterprises, The Republic’s parent company.
May 29, 2008
The circular design for The Commons indoor playground will form an outcropping at Washington and Third streets, possibly with a maze of interior platforms that resemble an ant farm.
Steve Risting of CSO Architects and Bill Fitzpatrick of Koetter Kim Associates gave The Republic a sneak peek Wednesday at the latest design plans for the new Commons.
The plans, which architects will present at noon today to the public, detail small changes from the designs presented in March, with tweaks to dimensions, door location, even the size of walls.
Planners still were studying eco-friendly building materials and other details.
David Doup, the Commons Board president, said energy efficiency would be a must so the building can operate on a lean budget.
The public portion of the building, attached to the privately funded Cummins office complex and Candlewood Suites, cannot exceed $18 million in total construction costs, according to project organizers.
An obvious change in the public portion comes courtesy of the indoor playground’s circular design, upon which designers settled after hearing from people in a public meeting.
The shape, a kind of double circle, split for older and younger children, makes for an exterior separated from — but still flowing into — the rest of the building.
August 6, 2008
A conference center named after a local businessman will complement the new Candlewood Suites when the extended-stay hotel opens next year.
The hotel and conference center are expected to cost $16 million to build.
Considered until now to be likely but uncertain, Richard L. Johnson Conference and Education Center will have the second floor of the six-level hotel to itself, drawings show.
Developer Tim Dora said crews will break ground on the entire structure in 45 to 60 days, with completion a year later.
Completion of the attached Commons will follow in spring 2010 if timelines are met. The Cummins Inc. office complex, also built onto The Commons structure, is scheduled to open next year.
Dora decided to build the $6 million center — the hotel part would cost another $10 million — based on a promising feasibility study of Columbus’ market.
“It has a diverse employment base,” he said before he announced his plan at a packed City Council meeting Tuesday.
September 14, 2008
With $2 million already committed, supporters of A Cause in Common have relaunched a community fund drive to collect the remaining million in the public-private sector partnership to rebuild The Commons.
The drive was originally launched May 13 but was put on hold immediately after the June 7 flood. The $3 million organizers plan on raising from the community would be combined with a $9 million commitment from the city and $3 million pledges each from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation and the Heritage Fund: the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County to rebuild the downtown gathering place.
Community fundraising for the past three months has been focused on the flood-relief efforts, and leaders of A Cause in Common stressed their desire to support those efforts but added that it is time to move forward to help get things back to “normal.”
“I think one thing the flood brought into focus was our need for a community gathering place,” said Mickey Kim, chairman of the Development Committee for the Heritage Fund. “The Commons touched thousands of lives over 30-plus years and was part of the soul of our community.”
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