Developer being sought for FairOaks

A design firm with a vision to transform the fading FairOaks Mall into a year-round recreational and sports tourism complex will likely be chosen late this spring.

Requests for development proposals from the FairOaks Community Development Corp.’s Design Committee are being sent out this week, committee members said.

Most of the six firms who are being invited to submit development proposals have worked extensively on recreation and wellness centers, said committee chairman Mark Levett. But a few are more broad-based design firms with impressive credentials, he said.

The design firms will be asked to include parks and recreation facilities, an indoor sports field, and health and wellness activities provided by Columbus Regional Hospital in their proposals for the mall property.

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The design companies also will be asked whether city parks administrative areas at Donner Center should be moved to the mall, consultant Tom Brosey said.

The six firms will be given until March 20th to submit a preliminary general proposal, Brosey said. After that, a subcommittee will take a few weeks to make a recommendation to the design committee on which firms should be interviewed.

Design firm representatives will be given an opportunity to tour the mall and surrounding land prior to the interviews, which are tentatively scheduled for April 17 and 18.

The design committee hopes to make a recommendation to the full FairOaks Community Development Corp. about which firm should be hired by late April, Levett said.

The process will include opportunities for community residents to provide input.

The committee reconvened its meeting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday to allow committee members to tour the mall property, but did not conduct business during the tour, according to Scott C. Andrews, attorney for the group. The tour was to receive information only, the attorney said.

During the selection and design process, firms will be asked to submit some ideas of who potential tenants might be. Broader proposals regarding developing and connecting indoor and outdoor space on the property, as well as finding links with nearby recreational facilities including Lincoln Park and Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena, will also be sought, Brosey said.

Other suggestions including providing an “on-deck space” where athletes can warm up while a game is going on.

Upon the urging of Bartholomew Consolidated School superintendent Jim Roberts, firms will also be asked to provide some type of hands-on involvement in the development by local high school students, especially those who attend the nearby Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech Campus.

Last December, the city of Columbus and partner Columbus Regional Health purchased the mall, and announced a plan to transform it into a year-round recreational and sports tourism complex.

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The city announced in late August that it planned to purchase the 35-acre mall property at 25th Street and Central Avenue from New FairOaks Mall Owner LLC for $5.9 million through a partnership with Columbus Regional Hospital and a grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

The city plans to turn the mall into a community recreational and sports tourism complex, with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department a likely tenant.

The city will pay $4,087,500, or 75 percent of the property’s $5.45 million appraised value, while the hospital will pay $1,362,500, which represents 25 percent of the appraised value. The Heritage Fund has also committed to providing $450,000, which reflects the difference between the agreed-upon selling price and the appraised value, according to the city.

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Columbus Parks Board president Mark Levett was chosen to serve as chairman for the new Design and Planning Committee.

Others selected for the new committee are: Jeff Bergman, city-county planning director; Britt Brewer, community outreach coordinator for the J. Irwin Miller Architecture Program; Jim Bickel, Columbus Regional Health CEO; Mark Jones, Columbus Parks and Recreation director; Karen Niverson, Columbus Visitor’s Center director; Jim Roberts, Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. superintendent and Frank Miller, Columbus city councilman.