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Editorial: Foundation taking smart approach on Sears property

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When approaching an important land-use project that will impact much of Columbus, it makes good sense to involve the best people available to make sure the process is done correctly.

That’s exactly what the Columbus Capital Foundation is doing as it works to determine the best reuse of the former Sears retail store and auto center, a large, critical piece of property on the western edge of downtown Columbus

The foundation was smart to hire Glenn Gareis as the project consultant. He knows the city well, having consulted on previous projects here, such as the Vision 2020 study, the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation’s reuse blueprint for The Commons Mall and the Columbus Arts District.

Gareis knows the impact these studies and projects can have.

The recent Fourth Street renovation project was a result of the Vision 2020 plan, which examined ways to revitalize downtown Columbus. He has been busy gathering information from 14 additional studies about the downtown area as part of the process for determining options on the Sears block.

The foundation also has been smart to plan a measured approach to the project. Its board members have been talking to stakeholders, such as Yes Cinema, the Indiana University Center for Art and Design, city officials and local philanthropist Rick Johnson. Also, the public is being engaged through an open house today at IUCA+D and with several planned focus group sessions.

Most importantly, the foundation wants to find the best long-term fit for the property. It is willing to wait for an answer that adds to and complements existing downtown businesses and organizations. Foundation board members stressed that an interested private party must have a viable business plan that will withstand scrutiny.

The structure and purpose of the Columbus Capital Foundation are not to become a developer, and it’s not a lender either, providing financial support to would-be projects. Instead, it’s role is to temporarily hold valuable parcels and look out for the best interests of the community when it comes to determining possible use.

This is about finding a great fit for this high-profile property that benefits the community. You can join the discussion today at the public open house.

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