Bloomington company seeks rezoning of downtown property for redevelopment

Mike Wolanin | The Republic An exterior view of the former Joe Willy’s in Columbus, Ind., Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.

A Bloomington-based developer is seeking to rezone four downtown parcels near the intersection of Eleventh and Washington streets to allow for more dense development.

The Columbus Plan Commission has voted to send Rubicon Investment Group’s request forward to Columbus City Council with a favorable recommendation. City/County Planning Director Jeff Bergman said he expects the first reading of the rezoning ordinance to be on the council’s Jan. 16 agenda.

Rubicon, which is comprised of a family of real estate and construction companies, seeks to rezone about two acres at 1008 Washington St., 1020 Washington St., 1034 Washington St. and 921 Jackson St. from Commercial: Neighborhood (CN) to Commercial: Downtown (CD). Rubicon is also the owner and developer of the St. Barts Apartments in Columbus, a company representative said.

“The expectation is to pursue residential with some commercial, possibly restaurant, light office,” said Matt Nolley with Rubicon.

According to the staff report, zoning regulations allow for more dense development in the CD zoning district than in CN, and Nolley indicated that this is important for making their plans feasible.

For both the zoning districts, details of any development plan are subject to review and approval by the plan commission, city officials said.

Rubicon has submitted two separate site development plans, said Bergman. One is for a mixed-use project at 1008 and 1020 Washington, while the other is for a restaurant at 1034 Washington.

The initial concept plan for the mixed use development includes a ground floor with nearly 50,000 square feet dedicated to parking, as well as 2,000 square feet for office/commercial space. The four levels above that would be residential, with an estimated total of 120 units.

“The Planning Department has requested additional details about the mixed-use project and separate drawings for the restaurant project,” Bergman said. “I understand that Rubicon is working to fulfill these requests. Neither project is yet scheduled for a Plan Commission hearing.”

Planning officials said they received several letters about the proposed rezoning. Most were from downtown residents who requested that the commission hold off on making a decision and hold a meeting at a more convenient time. They also expressed concern about the project’s potential impacts on the “historic” downtown area and said that they felt there had been a lack of communication about the development.

“What you are proposing will forever alter our neighborhood,” said Kerri Sinibaldi.

Some individuals echoed these concerns during the time for public comment, while others, including Councilman Tom Dell, spoke in support of the rezoning.

Dell said that bringing more people downtown will benefit the area.

“Nobody likes change, and I know a lot of the people within some of those areas don’t like change, but this is a new development in an area that is now not producing anything besides maybe parking cars on it and a house that people have looked at but nobody has the capital in order to fix it up,” he said.

Bergman noted that the commission had the option to continue the request if they so desired. The group ultimately voted 9-0 to send the rezoning request forward, with Barry Kastner abstaining.

“I thought we were about to allow for more citizen voice in the process, being responsive to the individuals who wrote letters saying that they felt slighted in some way by the lack of notification or difficulty accessing information,” he said afterward.

The staff report states the buildings on the Washington Street properties are all vacant, and the county’s GIS system shows that there are no structures on the Jackson Street address. However, the land has a rich history that is connected to one of Columbus’ first families.

“Around the turn of the 20th century there were five homes between Ninth and Eleventh Streets belonging to members of the Crump Family,” Bartholomew County historian Tami Stone Iorio told The Republic. “Only two of the five homes remain standing. The Lucas home between 9th and 10th was torn down in the 1950s; the home at 1102 Washington was torn down in 1965, and the original F.T. Crump home at 1016 Washington (now 1020) was demolished in 1973.”

Businessman Francis T., or F.T., Crump, lived from 1837 to 1917. He was the son of F.J. Crump, one of the county’s first citizens, and the brother of John Crump, who opened the Crump Theatre.

The home at 1034 Washington St. was designed by Charles Sparrell and constructed in the 1890s, said Iorio. It was built by F.T. Crump for his daughter, Hattie, and her husband, Arthur Overstreet.

The structure is known as the “Overstreet Home” because First National Bank president Francis Overstreet, son of Hattie and Arthur, lived there for much of the 20th century.

“Insurance office (Hawes-Phelan and Miller-Hawes-Phelan) occupied the house from 1988-2000,” said Iorio. “By 2002, Cindy’s Framing was using the space for custom framing and in 2005, the business was expanded to include a floral shop until Cindy Wilhelmi sold the business in 2009.”

John Wilhelmi and Joe Carman opened Joe Willy’s Burger Bar at 1034 Washington St. in August of 2012, after spending over a year turning the house into a restaurant.

In late 2021, the business closed for the season, and a for sale sign was posted on the property some time later.

The Columbus Capital Foundation, which also owns the Crump Theatre, bought 1034 Washington St. from Wilhelmi in October. At the time, board president Hutch Schumaker said that the foundation intended to hold the former eatery until “the right developer came along with the right idea that we think benefits all of downtown.”

At the time, he said it was not going to be reopened as a restaurant due to a lack of sufficient on-site parking. He also said that the building was in “extreme disrepair.”

According to Iorio, the house at 1008 Washington St. was also built at the end of the 19th century by F.T. Crump for one of his children — specifically, for his daughter Minnie and her husband, Joseph Weller.

“Minnie and Joseph Weller’s daughter Kathryne Price also lived in the home with her husband Oscar and their family,” Iorio said. “Their son Robert Price lived in the home with his wife Catherine until late in the 20th century.”

The building was converted into multiple apartments in the mid-to-late 20th century, she said. County records show that it was sold to Old National Bank in 2013 and Sprague Rentals in 2019.

According to Tricia Gilson with the Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives, both 1034 and 1008 Washington Street were listed as “outstanding” examples of the Queen Anne residential style in the 1980 Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory for Bartholomew County.

“The Outstanding rating indicated that the property is ‘recommended as potential nominations to the National Register of Historic Places,’” Gilson said. “In the 2012 inventory, the Overstreet House has no ranking. The 1008 house has dropped to Notable which indicates that with further research the property might be eligible for a National Register listing.”

The Queen Anne style of architecture was popular in the United States from 1880 to 1910 and was characterized by “playful use of different building materials,” according to the National Park Service.

As for 1020 Washington St., the property was the site of the first Crump home built in the early 1860s by F.T. Crump, Iorio said.

Dr. Cecil Harrod bought the home in 1927 and used it both as a residence and as a home for his medical offices.

The American Legion moved into the building in 1953. It was later demolished in 1973 by the Benzol Cleaning Company, which had used it as a laundromat.

The property is now home to a vacant bank building, owned by Sprague Rentals.

The property at 921 Jackson St. also belonged to F.T. Crump in the late 1800’s, Iorio said.

County records indicate that the property later belonged to the Price family and was sold to Old National Bank in 2013.

The Republic reported in December of 2018 that the city approved a condemnation and demolition order for a vacant home owned by Old National Bank at the site. It was torn down in early 2019, and county records show that the property was sold to Sprague Rentals in November of that same year.

Where to learn more

A copy of the staff report for the rezoning is available by going to and clicking on “Columbus Plan Commission – December 13, 2023”. Materials and agendas for upcoming meetings are posted at this same site.

City Council agendas and meeting packets are posted at

Additionally, City/County Planning Director Jeff Bergman said that Rubicon has provided some initial material to the planning department for site plan review, and the department can provide these to anyone who is interested as it is a matter of public record. However, he emphasized that these are very early concepts and may be subject to change.