Chamber, EDC seek grant for renovation of new downtown location

Photo provided An artist’s rendition of a renovated building at the southwest corner of Third and Franklin streets which would become the new home for the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp.

A little over one year since a fire destroyed the Irwin Block Building and damaged neighboring offices on Fifth Street, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. (EDC) may be close to acquiring new headquarters — with some help from the city.

The two organizations are considering the Engelstad Wealth Advisors building on the southwest corner of Third and Franklin streets, said Columbus Redevelopment Director Heather Pope. They plan to invest a little under $1.4 million into the structure — which includes the cost of the property purchase and renovations — and are requesting a $400,000 grant from the Columbus Redevelopment Commission to help fund this undertaking.

The commission will consider the request at 4 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of Columbus City Hall.

“We are excited about them being able to find a location in our downtown,” said Pope. “They’re an integral part of our economic development and growth of our downtown.”

Both the chamber and the EDC were previously located in offices at 440 Fifth St, which sustained “major fire and water damage” from the Dec. 3, 2022 blaze, according to their leadership. Since late December of 2022, Cummins Inc. has been leasing office space at 526 Washington St. to the chamber and EDC, with both entities indicating that this is a temporary solution while they search for a new location.

“After an exhaustive year-long search, we are excited to inform you that the organizations have successfully entered negotiations to acquire a 4,682 square-foot commercial structure located at the prominent corner of Third and Franklin Streets in downtown Columbus,” the chamber and EDC wrote in a letter to the redevelopment commission. “This property, with dual entrances at 230 and 250 Franklin Street, offers a central and accessible location that aligns with the mission of both entities. This week, we are reviewing loan term proposals from area financial institutions with an intended goal of closing on the property in January or February.”

Planned renovations to the building include changes to accommodate staff offices, community meeting rooms and a shared office for small business development partners. There will also be other improvements such as roof and HVAC replacements and “essential exterior upgrades.”

Partners on the project include local contractor Dunlap and Company and local design firm Landscape, Art and Architecture (LAA) Office.

The budget for the project is as follows:

  • Purchase price: $555,000
  • Estimated closing costs: $30,000
  • Improvements: $606,106
  • Additional expenses: $174,825
  • Approximate total investment: $1,365,931

“To bridge the financing gap required for the purchase and renovation of the new office space, we are seeking $400,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds from the Columbus Redevelopment Commission,” chamber and EDC officials wrote. “This funding will be instrumental in ensuring the successful realization of this project, allowing both organizations to establish a permanent and impactful presence in downtown Columbus.”

According to chamber President Cindy Frey, the two groups have created a new nonprofit known as Bartholomew Economic Growth, LLC to serve as owner of the property, with individuals from both the chamber and EDC boards of directors serving as officers. Ownership of the building will be split 60-40 based on square footage, with the breakdown being 60% for the chamber and 40% for the EDC.

The two organizations have also secured the services of LAA Office to create a “dynamic design” for the building’s exterior, they wrote. However, these additional exterior upgrades are not included in the current budget, and they are seeking additional, separate funding for the work.