Commission agrees to $567K riverfront contract

Columbus City Council will consider a $567,300 contract with Hitchcock Design Group that extends through the end of the proposed riverfront redevelopment project up until October 2023.

Columbus Redevelopment Commission members recommended that the council approve the contract after a presentation from Randy Royer, lead designer with Hitchcock Design Group, detailing the final two phases of the proposed riverfront redevelopment.

The city filed its application with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in October for the proposed $8.6 million conceptual plan calling for several overlooks of the East Fork White River downtown, connections to the People Trail system and an in-water recreation area.

The roughly 300-page application includes a narrative project description that summarizes the project scope, need for the project, and the project’s major components, maps and aerial photographs showing the proposed project location and a quantification of permanent and temporary disturbances and hydraulic modeling information.

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On Monday, Royer shared an approximate timeline with commissioners. Hitchcock Design Group, made up of architects, in-river consultants, environmental consultants and construction consultants, will partner with the city to develop construction documents and a bid packet between January and April. City officials said they expect to receive needed permits from DNR in April.

Immediately after receiving permits, the city and Hitchcock will move forward to advertise for contractor bids and negotiate a contract with the winning bidder.

Construction on the riverfront could then begin in July 2020 and extend through November 2021. The project is expected to close out between December 2021 and January 2022.

Royer said the city will have a little over one year to become acquainted with the redevelopment before Hitchcock Design Group completes a post-construction review of the final project in September and October 2023.

“When you include all those professionals to make a project come together, it comes with a large price tag,” said Heather Pope, Columbus Redevelopment director.

The project is funded primarily through tax increment financing, or TIF funds, which are received on commercial and industrial properties within the TIF district, Pope said. The city has received a $100,000 grant from the Columbus Parks Foundation and is also seeking grants from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County and through Indiana’s Next Level Trails Grant program.

The $567,300 contract approved by redevelopment commission will keep the project moving forward through its completion. The contract includes three add-ons, including a $10,000 owner contingency plan set aside for additions or modifications of the scope of the work, a $10,400 post-construction review to analyze how the project has withstood changing seasons and regular use and a $10,600 erosion control plan to be completed by the contractor.

The project design incorporates a fish passage channel and a rock arch ramp structure using natural materials, which reduces the amount of grout required in the structure, accommodates boat passage and maintains the river’s water level.

It features many many design drivers, including the removal of the lowhead dam, access for safety personnel, maintenance and repair of the river banks, economic and workforce development, ecology, connections, compelling attractions and a “captivating appearance,” according to the proposal.

Royer estimates the in-river structure will take about 100 days to complete, weather-permitting. S2O Design, the in-river consultants, will stay on site to assist and guide the engineering of the in-river structure.

Hitchcock will also hold biweekly on-site meetings with the contractor to stay up-to-date on the project and review any additions or changes.

Removal of the low-head dam between Second and Third streets is Hitchcock’s number one priority, as it is for the city and DNR, city officials said.

The low-head dam was originally installed a century ago to pool water near the former city pump house for the city’s water supply. The former city pump house has been renovated into the Upland Columbus Pump House brewpub.

Pope said the city anticipates a response from DNR in April 2020 and to have all permits in place to eventually open the bidding process for interested developers and award a contract to the winning bid.

Columbus City Council members are expected to hear Columbus Redevelopment Commission’s recommendation in early 2020.

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To learn more about the Columbus Riverfront project, visit columbusriverfront.org. The website features updates about the project.

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