From: Belinda Graber
An active, thriving downtown is the key to a strong community, a community where businesses are willing to locate, invest and grow. Mayor Fred Armstrong and Will Miller co-chaired Vision 20/20, a local group, to study the city and create a plan. Developmental Concepts was engaged to create a plan for redevelopment. The study said we needed hotels, housing, parking garages and a vibrant entertainment district.
The Columbus Redevelopment Commission was tasked with implementing the plan. To facilitate implementation, legal counsel created a not-for-profit entity able to accept gifts of real estate, donated money, grants and loans, and to negotiate leases favorable to the city. Columbus Downtown Inc. was created as a nonprofit corporation that could do all those things. CDI’s sole purpose was to perform the priorities of the redevelopment commission. CDI had a volunteer three-member board — with appointments by the mayor, city council and redevelopment commission. CDI hired consultants to manage and lease the rental spaces, including the parking garage, retail spaces along Fourth and Washington streets and inside The Commons. CDI could act quickly, have face-to-face negotiations with prospective tenants and negotiated favorable leases for the city that aligned with the desired family-friendly environment. The redevelopment commission had monthly scheduled public meetings and reported progress to the City Council. CDI reported to the redevelopment commission.
As a result of the mayor, Miller, city council, redevelopment commission, Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Foundation, Irwin Financial, Heritage Fund, Cummins Foundation and countless volunteers and paid consultants working together, Columbus experienced massive redevelopment in the downtown. From 2007 to 2011, during the recession, over 6,700 direct and indirect jobs were created with annual compensation of over $480 million in downtown Columbus. The Downtown TIF District was created, which produces $5 million annually in additional real estate tax revenues, with no new additions under the current administration. During this period, hotels, apartments, parking garages and a vibrant entertainment district were developed, and the 10-year plan was nearly completed in four years. Also, The Commons, Jackson Street and Fourth Street were reconstructed, and Indiana University Center for Art and Design and Mill Race Center were constructed.
The present administration, since taking office in 2012, has closed CDI. Those who were tasked with shutting CDI down did not find wrongdoing, nor did the two audits find funds missing or unaccounted for. Yet the current mayor continues to assert that tax dollars were used unlawfully and Columbus Downtown Inc. was a bad thing for our community — illegal and immoral actions.
The current administration has brought no new development or employment to town. Since CDI has been disbanded, the city is receiving over $74,000 less in revenue from leased space and lost over $128,000 from vacant space. Check the facts; the meeting minutes are available. Thanks to Armstrong, Miller, city council, redevelopment commission, Columbus Downtown Inc., ISMF, Irwin Financial, Heritage Fund, Cummins Foundation and countless volunteers and paid consultants for your generosity and hard work in creating a beautiful and profitable downtown.