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Sears block ideas shared

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Columbus Capital Foundation members want to extend the Fourth Street plaza-sidewalk design west along the former Sears store as they consider new uses for the site.

That idea is among five scenarios suggested by a consultant hired by the foundation as it works to determine which future use would most benefit the public.

But details are not being revealed because they could change or be dropped altogether, said Hutch Schumaker, chairman of the foundation that owns the Sears block.


Based on suggestions the foundation received from its consultant, the public and developers, the project’s focus has become “finishing of Fourth Street,” Schumaker said.

He was referring to the entertainment district, which has grown to include businesses such as 4th Street Bar & Grill, Garage Pub & Grill, and Bistro 310, Yats and Taku restaurants.

Foundation board members support the idea of Fourth Street development continuing west toward the Sears parking lot, Schumaker said.

The Fourth Street side of the Sears block consists of “a loading dock and a blank wall,” Schumaker said. “The site from Jackson to Brown (streets) is not finished in our mind.”

The foundation whittled the list of ideas, including housing, a convention center and a performance space, before deciding on extending the Fourth Street plaza concept.

Shared tenants likely

Sears had operated at the site since 1973 but closed the 62,800-square-foot retail store and 10,000-square-foot auto center March 9 due to poor sales performance. The property includes 3.5 acres of paved parking just west of the retail building.

Schumaker said the foundation has talked with representatives of several groups that are interested in sharing and redeveloping the Sears site, which has made the process more difficult.

“If you only had one client, it would be pretty simple. We’re assuming we’ll have multiple clients,” he said. “It’s going to be a long-term process.”

Carmel architect Glenn Gareis was hired by the foundation in March to create reuse options for the former retail space. He said he is negotiating with several groups interested in developing the Sears site in some way but would not say specifically what they have in mind.

“This is a little bit of the ‘art of the deal,’ where you’re balancing opportunities,” he said. “Right now, we’ve had good conversations, but nobody has made commitments of any kind.”

Options for retail space, housing, office space, a convention center, hotel, educational space and entertainment space are all on the table — and any option could call for keeping the existing building or razing it, Gareis said.

“Right now, the pieces we are working with aren’t even defined as far as the character of it, how many floors and who’s doing it,” he said. “That’s way down the road.”

However, Gareis said he hopes a plan for the building solidifies within the next 60 days.

The foundation’s board will meet again this month to continue talks with developers, Schumaker said, adding there is no timeline for development to begin.

Schumaker said the block of Fourth Street from Brown to Jackson streets also includes the post office, where a wall separating public parking faces the street to the south.

“That one block along Fourth, I’m going to call a dead zone,” he said. “There’s nothing commercial there.”

Making plans that relate to any changes to the post office would be out of the foundation’s hands because it doesn’t own the building — the postal service does, Schumaker said.

The foundation is talking to representatives of the city, which owns and maintains the infrastructure of Fourth Street, and would have to be involved if the brick sidewalk-plaza were extended to the west.

“For now, Columbus Capital had finished our planning, and we are trying to sell our ideas to investors,” foundation secretary Tracy Souza said.

She said the consensus fits with the Vision 20/20 plan from 2011 that looked at ways to revitalize downtown Columbus. Gareis had worked on that study.

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