City council approves paying for pre-construction mall renovation costs, with one no vote

A view of one of the entrances into the FairOaks Mall in Columbus, Ind., pictured, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. Mike Wolanin | The Republic Mike Wolanin

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus City Council has approved funding for some pre-construction costs for renovating the FairOaks Mall project, now known as NexusPark, although one council member continued to oppose the funding.

The city council voted 6-1 to approve the second reading of appropriations for the expenses, with Council President Pro Tem Elaine Hilber voting against the action. The appropriations are for $2.65 million from the city’s general fund.

Hilber also voted against the appropriations’ first reading. She said that while she still supports the mall purchase and likes the project in theory, she has concerns about how Donner Center is not being prioritized and how NexusPark work might coincide with other city projects and increases.

Director of Administration and Community Development Mary Ferdon said at a previous meeting that the appropriations are for concurrent Phases 1A (the fieldhouse) and 1B (includes spaces for parks department administration, support and programming).

The breakdown of the $2.65 million is as follows:

  • Perkins and Will architect contract: $1,522,225
  • Taylor Brothers Construction Co. construction manager contract: $685,700
  • Estimated additional expenses: $442,075

The appropriated funds will be reimbursed when bonds are sold for the project, Ferdon added.

“I think this is a wonderful project,” Hilber said. “And I’m very in support of the parks, and I think this would be a wonderful asset for us to have. The concept is wonderful. I would love to see something like this come to Columbus.”

However, one of her concerns is that renovations to Donner are not covered in these initial contracts. Ferdon said that this is because the city won’t know what changes they want to make to Donner until they know what the NexusPark piece looks like.

“We need to find out what we truly can do,” said Parks Director Mark Jones. “… We need that next step to really see what can happen.”

For the complete story, see Thursday’s Republic.