Construction on the Columbus Community Building is inching closer to the finish line.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The Columbus City Council and staff members pose for a photo in front of what will be the first-level circulation desk at the Columbus Community Building during a tour on the evening of Feb. 21st, 2023. Pictured are Councilman John Lohr, who recently resigned from his position; City Administrator Tara Vasicek, Council President Beth Augustine-Schulte, Councilman Ron Schilling, Mayor Jim Bulkley, Councilwoman Katherine Lopez, City Clerk Janelle Kline and City Engineer Rick Bogus; back row, from the left: Councilmen J. Prent Roth, Troy Hiemer and Rich Jablonski.)
Members of the Columbus City Council, City Administrator Tara Vasicek and a few other City of Columbus staff members were given a tour of the 3-story building by Boyd Jones Construction officials on Feb. 21st, getting a firsthand look at the ongoing development.
“I am so excited that we are building this new community building, and I’m excited voters approved it …” Council President Beth Augustine-Schulte said. “To walk through and see the progress being made, it’s exciting to see the transformation.”
The Community Building Project, the former locations of the fire department, senior center and public library, is on the north side of 14th Street and 26th Avenue in downtown Columbus. When completed, it will house the Columbus Public Library, Columbus Arts Council, the Columbus Area Children’s Museum, City Hall and a satellite location of The Broken Mug.
The group’s latest extensive walk-through of the building started with the first floor, which will serve as the front entry point with access to the library, children’s museum and water utility office. From there, officials toured the second floor, which will consist of extensions of the children’s museum and library, as well as art gallery space.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Columbus City Council President Beth Augustine-Schulte, left, Mayor Jim Bulkley and City Administrator Tara Vasicek on the third floor of the Community Building during the tour on Feb. 21st. The third floor will be home to City Hall, a community room and the City Council Chambers, among other things, when it opens later this year.)
The tour then transitioned to the third floor, which will be home to City Hall, the new Columbus City Council Chambers and a community room, among other things. From that top level, City leaders got a unique view of the surrounding area outside.
“Looking out through the glass and seeing the whole downtown you could see the bank, water tower and all these key points,” said Augustine-Schulte, of the First Ward. “That was a pleasant surprise. It was just a really neat experience.”
The drywall was up throughout the building, helping give officials a visual of what the interior layout will look like when it’s completed as opposed to just seeing it in drawings.
“I think the building is progressing along very well,” said City Councilman Ron Schilling, who represents the Third Ward, while also praising Boyd Jones Construction for its efforts on the project. “It’s starting to get some character.”
Councilman Troy Hiemer, of the Second Ward, agreed.
“Each time we’ve toured it, progress has been made. They’re doing a really good job of bringing all things together to make a perfect product,” Hiemer said. “I’m impressed with all the finishes and how things are going.”
All of the project -- except the City Hall portion – is funded by a $10-million bond issue passed by voters in November 2020, to be covered by an existing half-percent sales tax. The City Hall portion will be paid for using the City's general fund revenue.
(ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The area seen will be the future home of the Columbus City Council Chambers, where City Council meetings will take place. It is located on the third floor.)
The library portion of the building was arguably the most complete on the night of Feb. 21st or at least the space that seemed to hint the most at the bright future ahead for the building. The circulation desk on the first floor was built and in position.
The construction team tour guides spoke about plans to put shelving for books up in the coming months, giving those on hand the chance to visualize the finished product while looking out at nearby Frankfort Square through the glass from the circulation desk.
Areas such as the teen room, an activity space and a private wellness room for mothers were also shown, though still in development.
The City of Columbus leaders later in the tour got a glimpse of what will be the new City Council Chambers and City Hall on the third floor, stairways, public restrooms, offices, conference rooms and more.
Vasicek said she hopes the City will be able to start the transition of moving equipment and furniture into the Community Building in June, with everything but the Children’s Museum (a separate organization) set to open to the public by August. The Children's Museum is slated to open in the fall of 2023.
Augustine-Schulte said she’s looking forward to the building opening later this year, noting how her 6-year-old granddaughter who often visits from Elkhorn is eagerly awaiting it so they can enjoy the new library together.
“She’s only 6 and doesn’t even live in Columbus, but it’s really neat to hear her excitement,” she said, adding her appreciation to all of the designers and construction crews working on the project. “We drive by and she’s always so interested in seeing the progress.”
With the building taking shape, Schilling said he’s confident it will become an asset to the community.
“It’s going to bring people downtown. That’s one of the big factors,” Schilling affirmed. “There is going to be space for meetings. It will bring families in. … I’m very pleased.”
The Columbus Community Building will enhance the city as a whole once it opens, Hiemer noted.
‘It’s a big statement for Columbus,” Hiemer said. “I think there are a lot of good things to come.”