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Editorial: Downtown sees change and stability

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The Columbus downtown of 2013 is markedly changed from what it was 40 years ago. It’s different even from what it was as recently as five years ago.

The central district of this community has been experiencing a remarkable transition over the last four decades. It’s even more remarkable when considering what has transpired over the last decade.

In fact, the expected completion of the Cummins Inc. office complex at Fourth and Jackson streets will bring an end to an unbroken string of five years in which some form of major construction was ongoing in the downtown area.

Completion of that particular project will also usher in another change to the downtown — the reopening of Jackson Street to through traffic for the first time in 40 years. That major thoroughfare had been closed to traffic between Third and Fourth streets in the early 1970s for construction of the enclosed downtown mall that was originally called Courthouse Center.

The hectic construction pace has provided several new features to the downtown:

  • A new Commons.
  • Three parking garages.
  • An apartment complex.
  • A bank.
  • Two new office buildings.
  • A refurbished Fourth Street.
  • Several new restaurants.

In the midst of all this change, much of the original downtown has been retained — and in a number of cases restored and enhanced.

Work is under way on the repurposing of the original Eero Saarinen-designed Irwin Union Bank and Trust Co. building at Fifth and Washington streets by its current owner, Cummins Inc.

That project is a continuation of work already done by the engine maker to the older office complex to its north, a 19th-century structure that once housed Irwin Financial Corp., which was connected to the Saarinen building by a modernistic glass atrium designed by Kevin Roche.

At Third and Washington streets, Cummins remodeled the historic 301 Washington St. building that was formerly the headquarters for Irwin Management and prior to that Irwin’s Bank.

On the neighboring block on Washington Street, work is progressing on the exterior restoration of the 19th-century building housing Reams Asset Management Co. Through the first half of the 20th century it was recognized as the A. Tross building.

And nestled between Third and Fourth on Washington Street, work is nearing completion on restoration of yet another portion of the building that houses Zaharakos. The work on the second floor directly over the ice cream parlor will give that portion of the building a true 19th-century appearance.

This activity of the past decade — melding the creation of the new with the enhancement of the old — has brought to life a decades-old dream for a thriving downtown. While the public sector has been an important partner in this ongoing transformation, it has been the private sector that has been the primary engine.

Things of beauty have been created, and things of beauty have been restored.

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