Almost done: Bartholomew County’s Court Services building nears completion

THE new Bartholomew County Court Services Center is for the most part now complete.

Some of the on-site work continuing at the new center included sodding and furniture installation.

Redevelopment project coordinator Mikala Brown said that the prior week’s inspection indicated that Dunlap &Company’s work at the site was “pretty far along,” with only some minor fixes left.

“I think the furniture probably will take about a week for installation, and then we’ll need to go through that final punch list that we talked about last week and make sure all of the items that were on that punch list are addressed,” said Redevelopment Director Heather Pope.

According to Pope, some of the county’s first move-in steps will be getting a fire alarm system in place and transferring electronics, such as the current computer system, into the new building. Once this equipment has been moved, files will be next. She believes the county is planning to possibly move in mid-July, with the transition taking about a month.

City officials expect the old court services building to be “completely empty” by Sept. 1 and for demolition to be completed by the end of 2022.

“Once that’s the case, then we’ll probably demolish the building before the end of the year,” said Pope. “But one thing I do want to stress is that the county employees will be able to continue to use that (parking) lot until at which point we’re ready to start construction on it. So it’ll still be available for all the county employees that currently use it.”

The city of Columbus has contributed to construction of the new court services building as part of a land swap agreement, with the expectation of receiving county land for its own construction project.

After demolition of the old court services building at 507 Third St., the entire block will be available for a new hotel and conference center between between Second, Franklin, Third and Lafayette streets.

However, the hotel conference center project was put on hold by Sprague Hotel Developers in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry. The Columbus Redevelopment Commission recently engaged Hunden Strategic Partners to complete an update to their previous market and feasibility study on the project. Pope expects to the firm to give a report on their findings at the commission’s June 27 meeting.

According to the redevelopment department’s website, the hotel and conference center would be located on an area that is currently a surface parking lot for Bartholomew County employees and the probation department.

Per their agreement with the county, the city purchased property on First Street for the new court services building and is contributing $1.5 million to the overall construction cost, Pope said. The county is contributing the remainder of the cost, which is approximately $2 million.

“The county has been involved at every step when reviewing the plans and are actually the ones who’ve made the decision on whether to go with this type of unit or that type of unit,” she said. “So they really had control over the overall cost.”

County officials have said they plan to fully pay off their $2 million piece upon the building’s completion, rather than finance the amount.

The new court services building is located at 555 First St., the former site of Eynon Law Offices. These offices were demolished in March of 2021 to make way for the construction project.

A couple months later, human and animal bones were found at the construction site by workers trying to locate a 1940s-era clay sewer line. The University of Indianapolis and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources have been involved in investigating the remains.

“Throughout the course of several weeks, over 10,000 to 12,000 bone fragments were located contributing to at least eight or nine bodies originating from the Adena culture dating back to some 2,500 to 3,000 years ago,” said the redevelopment commission in its annual report.

The tribal community has elected to take possession of the bones once the university’s skeletal analysis is complete.