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Commons history 2010

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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 2010.

January 10, 2010

Closing: ISMF to end gift-giving operations

The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, donor of tens of millions of dollars for groups and projects in Bartholomew County over the past 57 years, expects to end its gift-giving endeavors by the end of the year.

The remaining assets of the family foundation will be devoted to the Vision 20/20 project for the enhancement of downtown Columbus.

“We would expect to close the books sometime around the third quarter of this year,” said Sarla Kalsi, executive director of the foundation.

The ISMF — established in 1952 by Nettie Sweeney Miller; her children, J. Irwin Miller and Clementine Tangeman; her sister, Elsie Irwin Sweeney; and family friend, George Newlin — has been a major supporter of numerous community initiatives such as The Commons, kidscommons, Mill Race Park, Su Casa, the Visitors Center, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. alternative education program, Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center and Love Chapel.

According to statistics prepared by the foundation staff, ISMF and members of the Miller family have donated in excess of $55 million to Bartholomew County projects over the years. In today’s dollars that translates to approximately $101 million.

The decision to eventually spend down the assets was made following the death of J. Irwin Miller in 2004. His wife, Xenia, died in 2008.

“We chose to concentrate the foundation’s investment in the Columbus community in honor of Irwin and Xenia Miller and Clementine Tangeman,” said Lynne Maguire, chairwoman of the ISMF board and wife of Will Miller, son of J. Irwin and Xenia Miller.

“We wanted to use the remaining assets to have the biggest impact possible for a bright future in Columbus. We felt the best way to do this was by investing most of its remaining resources to help Vision 20/20 achieve its goal of a vibrant and welcoming downtown.”

Much of those remaining assets have already been put to work on downtown projects. The foundation pledged $3 million to the construction of a new Commons.

January 31, 2010

Tight credit, economy delaying downtown hotel

Construction of a $16 million downtown hotel and conference center has been delayed further because of tight credit markets and the continued weak economy.

Erecting Candlewood Suites and Richard L. Johnson Conference & Education Center next to the Commons Mall will begin no sooner than the second half of the year — and possibly not until 2011 if the economy does not improve, said developer Tim Dora.

After two delays, the project was expected to begin in the second quarter, but Dora said Friday that even if market conditions warranted construction he probably would not be able to secure financing.

Banks are holding on to money tightly, Dora said, especially for commercial real estate projects.

He also said property values still have not recovered: A Holiday Inn Express, which he is building in Terre Haute, recently was appraised at less than his costs to build it, he said.

Dora said he hopes to begin construction of the Columbus project in the second half of the year.

Judging from occupancy rates in his other Columbus properties, including Hotel Indigo, the market slowly is recovering.

“It seems like we’ve certainly turned the corner, and we are on an uptick,” Dora said.

February 7, 2010

City invites public to autograph new Commons

Think of The Commons as a book. Think of yourself as one of its authors who autographs the front page.

An event Friday and Saturday will allow the public to put their names to a steel beam that will be lifted into place as part of the future Commons downtown.

Organizers want Columbus residents to feel a sense of ownership in the new building, which they helped pay for with $9 million in property tax-backed bonds.

Donna Stouder, director of marketing for Columbus Area Arts Council, said the building will be the community’s living room when it is finished in 2011.

She quoted from Mayor Fred Armstrong, who used the “living room” analogy during his State of the City address Tuesday.

Arts Council and Columbus Redevelopment Commission are partnering for the signing event.

People who want to sign the beam should come to the Jackson Street side, where attendants will pass out markers and 4-by-6-inch templates, Stouder said.

Room for signatures will be provided on three sides of the 30-foot beam, excepting only the fourth side, which eventually will be pressed against a surface.

People should hold the templates against the beam and sign inside them. Stouder said that guarantees each signer the same amount of signature space.

Families will be asked to sign under a single designation, like “the John Doe family” or some other shortened descriptor.

May 19, 2010

Commons bricks available for purchase

Personalized bricks that will help complete the future Commons’ Washington Street walkway are available through the city.

Each brick costs $25 for individuals, $50 for nonprofit organizations and $75 for businesses.

Engravings may not exceed two lines, with a maximum of 14 characters per line, according to Columbus Community Development office.

A form ran Sunday on Page A4 of The Republic, and also may be accessed using the link on the home page.

Return completed forms by mail or in person to City Hall, Community Development, 123 Washington St., Columbus, IN 47201. Checks should be made payable to “City of Columbus — Bricks.”

Beth Ostby, of Community Development, said the city is offering the bricks strictly to give people the chance to feel ownership in The Commons’ construction.

She said the cost is meant strictly to cover the brick and engraving expenses through a local company, Federal Industrial Sales.

July 22, 2010

Who will lead Commons? Management decision expected by end of year

Local people will handle management and maintenance of the new Commons, but their identities will be decided closer to the end of the year.

“It won’t be someone from Timbuktu,” Mayor Fred Armstrong said.

A Vision 20/20 committee of seven members is looking into all aspects of the management of the building, which is under construction and on track for completion in March 2011.

The committee will decide how to run its programming, maintenance and operations before picking a management team that has the credentials to pull it off.

Columbus Area Arts Council oversaw programming in the old Commons before it was torn down in 2008, and Sharon Renfro managed it.

The Arts Council is among a handful of entities to submit proposals to the 20/20 committee.

August 20, 2010

Commons officials plan fix for dangerous skate deterrent: Skateboarders mixed on metal pieces

Steel outcroppings installed to shoo away skateboarders from an outside portion of The Commons will be modified or replaced to improve safety.

A deliveryman who came through Columbus on Tuesday saw the pieces on The Commons construction site and complained to local officials.

The man, William Thomas, called The Republic from his home in Tallahassee, Fla., to say he pursued it because he thought it would put at risk people who might slip, fall and hurt themselves.

But officials in charge said they knew weeks ago that the pieces needed to be removed, ever since contracted workers put them in concrete on the outside of the future indoor playground.

“We saw right away they weren’t the correct design or configuration,” said architect Steve Risting, of Indianapolis-based CSO Architects, which designed the $18 million building.

Modification or replacement could take a few weeks to a few months, according to officials.

September 2, 2010

Commons: phoenix rising; Signature glass panels added to structure

Glass panes that boldly announce an emerging downtown building as The Commo­­­ns are greeting walkers, bikers and motorists on Washington Street.

The glass panes that enclose the future indoor playground all were installed this week, according to Patrick McKinney, project manager for Dunlap General Contractors.

He said workers spelled out the word “The” Monday and “Commo_s” Tuesday, by installing the panes in a certain order.

A replacement “n” pane — McKinney suspects the first one broke before shipping — should be installed Sept. 13.

“It’s like a big video game,” said worker Ross Marks, who used a crane to lift the panes into place. “The more you play, the better you are.”

The $18 million construction project is on schedule, with completion expected in March, McKinney said. It is being backed with a $9 million public bond issue, with private entities picking up the remainder.

The building will have performance spaces, an indoor playground, outside-accessible storefronts and an outdoor terrace.

Tom Vujovich, president of Columbus Redevelopment Commission, said people have expressed excitement to him, particularly about the indoor playground and performance spaces.

Columbus’ Dancing C’s dot the glass panes on the building’s southern side, which will have the most sun exposure, McKinney said.

October 9, 2010

Columbus Parks Dept. to lead new Commons

Columbus Parks and Recreation Department is being tabbed to oversee the maintenance, operation and scheduling at The Commons when it opens in 2011.

Columbus Area Arts Council will work with the department to program activities and schedule events, according to officials.

A Vision 20/20 task force of eight members plans to recommend next month to the City Council or to the Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety that it approve the decision.

“This is a win-win for the parks department and the city,” said Ben Wagner, director of the parks department, which is a division of city government.

“Our staff brings a great deal of expertise in facility maintenance, grounds keeping, programming and marketing,” he said.

“Adding The Commons will allow us to capitalize on both our facility management expertise and our existing programming partnership with the Columbus Area Arts Council.”

Cheryl Buffo, a task force member, said the partnership with the Arts Council is a good fit, “given both organizations’ long-standing history with The Commons … to ensure a seamless transition.”

November 17, 2010

Search begins for Commons retail manager: Commons Board appointees named

Columbus City Council has cleared the Commons Board steering committee to begin searching for a manager for the future Commons’ retail spaces.

The manager would hold the facility’s master lease and would have to be nonprofit to qualify.

City Attorney Tim Coriden said that makes Columbus Downtown Inc. a “viable candidate.” He did not indicate whether any other nonprofit entities possibly would enter the mix.

CDI already handles leases for the Fourth Street parking garage, among other responsibilities. It was awarded that lease in a bidding process in which no other entities came forward.

A master lease allows an entity to sublease property. In the case of the Commons, the sub-leasers would be the retail tenants.

Mayor Fred Armstrong announced after the City Council meeting whom he will appoint to a new Commons Board.

His five appointments include himself and City Council members George Dutro and Jesse Brand.

November 30, 2010

Rooftop gardens highlight progress at Commons site

Do a double take, if it helps convince you. Someone really did plant trees on top of The Commons.

Rooftop gardens are among the features at the $18 million construction project, which is on schedule for completion in February or March, project officials said.

The garden the public will see occupies an outdoor terrace accessible from stairs off Third Street and from a door off The Commons’ upper level.

Green vegetation that does well in shade occupies a fairly large portion of the terrace. Five honey locust trees stick out from the plant life, and concrete pavers are being placed around it where the public can walk, sit and socialize.

The facility also will have gardens on higher roof sections that will be off limits to the public, said Patrick McKinney, project manager for Dunlap General Contractors.

Those higher gardens are tree-free and filled with plants that thrive better under harsh sunlight than the lower garden, said Keith Romine, of Smither Roofing in Indianapolis.

Rooftop gardens (or green roofs) were included in The Commons design partly because they help regulate the temperature of the building, keeping it cool and reducing energy costs.

McKinney said the building itself is entering its last construction phase.

December 7, 2010

’11 Commons revenue to outpace costs

Projected revenue for the new Commons will slightly outpace expenses for 2011, according to figures presented to the facility’s board Monday.

And the bulk of that revenue, 76 percent, will come from $500,000 in Economic Development Income Tax funds.

Board members said programming rental fees will become a key element in the structure, scheduled to open March 1. Those charges, along with retail space rentals, will help cover operating expenses.

Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation paid $350,000 annually to support the earlier Commons structure, which was demolished in February 2008. The foundation will no longer do that.

Eighty percent of the old Commons’ event rentals in 2007, its last year, were free, according to the Columbus Area Arts Council. Many of the other rentals were reduced, said Warren Baumgart, the arts council’s executive director.

“This (booking and rental) now will take a huge effort on everybody’s part,” said Mayor Fred Armstrong. “There is no absolute certainty with any start-up project.

“But I believe it’s going to work.”

A liberal estimate of expenses would be $649,829, according to Jamie Brinegar, director of business services for Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. Though the structure is built to be particularly energy efficient, Brinegar said it’s tough to predict such savings.

December 20, 2010

Refurbishing set for Chaos

Chaos I will awaken from its nearly three-year slumber soon.

Indianapolis Museum of Art will handle cleaning and refurbishing the kinetic sculpture as Commons construction finishes in February, according to Darrell Begley, on-site superintendent for Dunlap Co. Inc. construction.

The cost already has been included in the building’s $18 million price tag.

The late Jean Tinguely’s 6-ton, 30-foot piece stood guard over The Commons playground since 1974, when it became a gift to the community from J. Irwin and Xenia Miller and Clementine Tangeman.

December 21, 2010

12 paid events per year slated for Commons

The Commons’ board wants the upstairs performance space to be a hot ticket here.

Toward that end, it approved Monday a goal of 12 paid events annually in the stage area, which will seat up to 800 people. The ticketed gatherings will enrich the local arts scene and fund the part of the maintenance of the $18 million building, organizers say. The Commons is scheduled to open March 1.

The Columbus Area Arts Council and Columbus Parks and Recreation Department will be responsible for entertainment bookings, according to Mayor Fred Armstrong.

Revenue from a few shops, restaurants and events is estimated to be $150,000, according to conservative projections. That money will help cover the annual costs to run the Commons, expected at about $650,000.

The rest, about $500,000, will come from the city’s portion of the Economic Development Income Tax.

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