A Tech Center refresh: Cummins begins renovations, buys nearby properties

Cummins Inc. has started renovations at the Cummins Technical Center in Columbus that could bring some changes to part of the city’s east side.

The renovations, which began this summer and are expected to continue through the end of next year, mostly focus on the six-story office tower located along Haw Creek, which company officials said has been largely untouched since employees started moving into the facility in 1967.

The idea is to create open, collaborative work spaces and social areas that are similar to other Cummins facilities, including the company’s recently renovated corporate headquarters in downtown Columbus, said Cummins spokesman Jon Mills.

However, Cummins also purchased 10 properties near the technical center for a combined total of roughly $3.23 million from this past November to April, according to real estate sales records.

In July, the company was granted demolition permits for seven of those properties, including four on McKinley Avenue, two on Pencecalla Street and one on State Street, according to Bartholomew County Code Enforcement.

Most of the properties are located across the street from the technical center or within a couple blocks of the facility.

Currently, there is no estimated timetable for when the buildings will be demolished, and Cummins has “no definitive plans” for what they will do with the properties at this point, Mills said.

The demolition permits are valid for two years. As of Wednesday, Cummins had no permit applications on file for those properties with the City of Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department.

“We’re continuing to evaluate different options,” Mills said. “But we what we are committed to, in Columbus and all our locations, is creating a plan that creates the best work environment, creates an area that’s best for the community and the city of Columbus.”

“We’re not just going to purchase the properties,” Mills added later in the interview. “We’ll eventually do something over time.”

Mills said Cummins paid “above market value” for the properties and has acted “in good faith,” helping tenants and businesses, including the Olesya’s Kitchen, as much as possible find new locations.

“We want to do what’s in the best interest of those neighbors, of those tenants, of the community. That’s really at the heart of what we’re doing,” Mills said. “And of course, the first focus is really providing a better work environment for our employees based at the tech center.”

The technical center, which includes an officer tower and test center, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. The facility has played a role in popular Cummins products, including the Big Cam and V Series engines, according to the company’s website.

Cummins initially sought to build a 188,000-square-foot facility with 64 test cells, though the facility ended being nearly twice that size with two buildings and 88 test cells when it opened, according to Cummins.

Before the renovations started, the office tower contained cubicles and other “things in there that weren’t great work environments or consistent with what Cummins is doing,” Mills said.

Currently, many of the employees that are based in the office tower are temporarily working out of the corporate headquarters building and other company facilities until the renovations are complete.

“A lot of it’s really opening (the works space) up, creating a more collaborative open-type space. It’s much more comfortable (and has) better lighting,” Mills said.