Indiana University purchases former Republic building to house master’s program

An architecturally significant building constructed more than four decades ago to produce newspapers and anchor a downtown Columbus redevelopment has a new purpose.

The former Republic building, at 333 Second St., which became a National Historic Landmark in 2012, will become the home of Indiana University’s new Master of Architecture program that starts in the fall semester.

Indiana University officials made the announcement Monday evening with 175 people in attendance, including Columbus government, education and business representatives. The announcement was made at the former newspaper plant, which was designed with an all-glass exterior by renowned architect Myron Goldsmith, and opened in 1971.

Attendees toured the building and looked at artist renderings of how the space will be repurposed. About a half-dozen students who will be in the first class of the master’s program also attended the announcement.

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“Students will have an unrivaled opportunity to study and visit the exemplary buildings, landscapes, design, and art in one the nation’s great cities for Modern architecture,” Indiana University President Michael McRobbie said.

The American Institute of Architects in 2012 ranked Columbus, with more than 65 examples of Modern architecture, as the nation’s sixth most architecturally important city, behind Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington D.C., in order.

IU’s new master’s degree program, which is part of its School of Art, Architecture + Design, received approval March 9, 2017, from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Classes will begin Aug. 20 at the new space in Columbus, a city that is home to works by I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Kevin Roche and Harry Weese, including schools, churches, the public library and businesses.

The program will be named the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program, in honor of the late Cummins executive and philanthropist who started the Cummins Foundation’s practice of paying architectural fees for select Columbus community projects, designed by renowned architects.

“It’s a great privilege and opportunity to partner with IU on a program that enhances one of the unique differentiators of the Columbus community. That differentiator, of course, is architecture and design, and the quest for community excellence,” said Rick Johnson, a Community Education Coalition board member.

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said the city would support Indiana University’s new program through a $2 million public-private investment, similar to what it did to support the creation of the Indiana University Center for Art + Design, which opened in Columbus 2011 at 310 Jackson St. The public-private investment then was $2.5 million to pay for the buildout of the space. The funds this time will be used for the same purpose, Lienhoop said.

Lienhoop said he would request $1 million from the Columbus Redevelopment Commission while private donors would cover the other half.

The private donation portion is close to being met, said John Burnett, president and CEO of the Community Education Coalition.

The mayor said he plans to formally make the request at the May 21 redevelopment commission meeting, but first would have a special meeting, likely on May 8, to ensure commission members have a full understanding of the program.

“Columbus offers an extraordinary architectural laboratory,” Lienhoop said.

The mayor also said that the master’s program will bring new life to a landmark building, add vibrancy to the downtown, bring new students and faculty and lead to new business partnerships and economic opportunity.

Further support of the new program is coming from McRobbie and his wife, Laurie, personally: $500,000 to the School of Art, Architecture + Design to endow a professorship in Modern architecture.

The Columbus-based Community Education Coalition proposed the idea of the master’s program to IU in 2015, as an extension of the collaboration by the city and school that produced the Indiana University Center for Art + Design.

What will happen with the IUCA+D space after the master’s program moves into the former Republic building remains unclear and is still being decided, said Peg Faimon, dean of the School of Art, Architecture + Design.

“The IU M.Arch (Master of Architecture) is a big, bold step, aiming even higher to bring together learning, economic development and quality of place,” Burnett said.

Establishing the program is another step in a long process to bring post-secondary education into the downtown area, Burnett said. It started in 2005 with the city’s Vision 2020 strategic plan, included McRobbie visiting Columbus to discuss opportunities with art, architecture and design, and led to discussions in September 2010 between IU and the city about creating a center that would focus on art, architecture and design, he said.

The master’s program fits well with the city’s efforts in that regard, Burnett said, because of the additions of the Landmark Columbus organization and Exhibit Columbus event in recent years. Landmark Columbus cares for the mid-century Modern architecture in the community, while Exhibit Columbus celebrates the community’s design heritage.

“A renewal and expansion of art, architecture and design (and design thinking) is happening here in a dramatic way,” Burnett said.

IU’s master’s program in architecture will have 21 students in its first cohort, said T. Kelly Wilson, director of IUCA+D and director of graduate studies in Columbus. He previously said that the expected growth of the program would have necessitated a space larger than IUCA+D’s current home on Jackson Street next to YES Cinema.

The three-year degree program is open to students from a wide range of disciplines. Students will use the city’s Modern architecture and fabrication technology at local manufacturing companies for up-close, hands-on learning. They will study abroad late in their second year, and also will be involved in building projects that aid and support the community’s interests.

Indiana University Foundation Inc. bought the former Republic building from Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings, the holding company for Columbus Regional Health, on Friday for $2,770,000. The university will begin occupying the building Aug. 10.

The property had been utilized as a newspaper office from 1971 through December 2016.

Previously, Columbus Regional, through its holding company, bought the 2.18-acre property, with 23,000 square feet on the building’s main floor, for the same price in May 2016 from Rayanna Corp., a local company established by the Brown-Marshall family of Columbus that owned the newspaper for more than 140 years.

When Columbus Regional acquired The Republic’s former home, it envisioned using it for administrative purposes or financial services, and easing an internal space crunch felt at some of its locations, Columbus Regional spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said in November.

However, Columbus Regional determined that it probably would serve the needs of another community organization better, she said then.

The building was not included in the November 2015 sale of The Republic and other newspapers, online and commercial printing properties owned by Home News Enterprises, and purchased by AIM Media Indiana LLC, an affiliate of AIM Media Texas LLC.

Jeff Brown, former HNE president and chief executive officer, said the new purpose for the building is perfect.

“I think it’s outstanding. It’s an incredible opportunity for the community to have this architecture school come to Columbus and be located in this National Historic Landmark. It’s just the best use I could ever imagine for that building. A lot of my dad was in that building. It was hard to let go,” Brown said.

His father, the late Bob Brown, former Republic publisher and HNE chairman, worked closely on the building with Goldsmith, a general partner in the Chicago-based architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

“It started life helping the downtown reinvent itself in the early ‘70s, part of the redevelopment. Now it’s beginning a second phase of its life — that is to bring life downtown through the school,” Jeff Brown said.

Wilson said the former newspaper building is perfectly suited for the needs of the architecture program. It will be a great space for the students to learn and work, and perfectly situated downtown to allow them walking access to the city’s examples of Modern architecture, he said.

“I was thrilled; you want to do jumping jacks. What’s a better use for that building?” Wilson said.

He added that it’s astounding how little needs to be done to make the building suitable for the program’s needs.

The north side of the building, which is perpendicular to Second Street and facing the Bartholomew County Courthouse, will serve as studio space. Where people once used to be able to look in to see an operating printing press produce newspapers, now they’ll be able to look in at architecture students at work, Wilson said.

The south side of the building will serve as lecture and community space. Faculty offices will be on the west side and in the middle spine. The machine shop will be on the east side, Wilson said. The only significant addition, he added, is a concrete wall to cordon off the fabrication part of the machine shop.

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Next steps to get the former Republic building at 333 Second St. in downtown Columbus ready to house Indiana University’s new master’s program in architecture:

Mid-May: Refurbishing and furnishing the interior of the building for the needs of the program to begin.

Aug. 10: Indiana University to gain occupancy of the building.

Aug. 20: Classes in the J. Irwin Miller Program in Architecture to begin in the former Republic building, 333 Second St.

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Learn more about the architecturally significant Columbus building that will house the J. Irwin Miller Program in Architecture.