City hires planning consultant

Columbus officials have hired a Seymour design company to work on possible reuses for several vacant properties.

The Columbus Board of Works hired CWC Latitudes LLC to work on designs and possible reuses for about six vacant properties in Columbus.

The city will pay the company $125 an hour to work on design possibilities for the properties, which could include the vacant former Kroger building on Old National Road, the downtown area south of Second Street and east of the Bartholomew County Jail and other infill sites throughout the city, Mayor Jim Lienhoop said.

Money to pay the company will come out of the mayor’s EDIT funding, which he has discretion to direct on spending, board of works members said at their June 6 meeting.

Professional services that Latitudes will provide includes background on the properties, zoning, limitations, development restrictions and environmental constraints, its contract states.

The company will identify development concepts, offer budget guidance and identify potential developers for the properties, including the potential benefit of how much the tax base could be increased and how many jobs could be added to the workforce.

Lienhoop said he decided to work with the company because city employees are already working on large projects involving State Street, the railroad overpass project and the heroin addiction prevention initiative, and they need some breathing room.

In the meantime, as those projects continue, “the question becomes do we want to sit back and wait and see what happens to some of these properties, or do we want to provide a little direction,” the mayor said.

City officials have called the individual in New Jersey who owns the former Kroger building and hope to work through Latitudes to find developers who may have an interest in the site, Lienhoop said.

The city prefers to find local developers first, but will expand out to Indianapolis and nationwide if necessary.

Latitudes is owned by C. Edward Curtin, who was instrumental in the Cole apartments and garage project, Lienhoop said.

City officials are particularly interested in seeking mixed-use developments that could include residential, retail and community space, much the way The Cole does downtown, the mayor said.

“We want to get the community conversation going about these areas that could be developed,” he said. “If these properties would be available, we want to make something out of those opportunities.”

The completion of the first phase of the State Street Revitalization Project, and continuing work for streetscape further east to Mapleton Avenue, will provide one bookend to the development area city officials want to focus on, Lienhoop said.

Then the next phases of the project create a streetscape and path through the Fifth Street architectural corridor downtown to the Riverfront project, he said.

“We’re creating bookends,” he said of the development idea the city is pursuing. “And as we make this area more attractive, we want to fill in the middle.”