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The Commons: Building Into The Future In Columbus

After four years of planning and construction, the Columbus, Indiana community eagerly awaits the opening of its new downtown mall and community center.

glass building with children in front and courthouse in background

Photo: Abbey Bonner/WFIU

The Commons is located on Washington Street between Third and Fourth Streets. A few dozen children on a school field trip admire the outside of the building. It is not yet open to the public.

Event Information

The Commons Opening Celebration

The festivities will take place as part of JCB NeighborFEST.

Downtown Columbus, Indiana (300 block of Washington Street)

June 2-June 5

Columbus, Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureau

JCB NeighborFEST

A Community Landmark

When members of the Redevelopment Commission looked into renovating the Commons building in downtown Columbus, Indiana, they found it needed $10 million worth of repairs. So instead of resurrecting the old structure, built in 1973, plans went into effect to build a bigger and better Commons.

After four years of planning and construction, and some bumps in the road along the way, the Columbus community now eagerly awaits the opening of its new, $18 million facility this June.

Members of the local media were given a sneak peek last month. They dodged construction equipment and pieces of the yet-to-be-assembled playground equipment that still littered the inside of the building.

Old Memories Made New

Abbey Bonner grew up playing on the playground in the old Commons building. She remembers throwing her dad’s money into the wishing well at the base of the clock statue “Chaos 1.” She also went to her high school prom there.

But since 2007, when the 35-year-old Commons building Bonner grew up with was demolished, the city has been without a downtown mall or community space. Bonner says it was hard to come downtown and see the vacant lot—”but this,” she says, “is amazing. This feels so much better.”

The new building, designed by Koetter Kim, was constructed using the frame of the original building by Cesar Pelli.

Building Into The Future

The tour was led by Ed Curtin, Executive Director of the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, who reluctantly accepted the title of expert on the construction phase of the Commons. There are a number of expansion programs on the books for the downtown area, including a new office building and an outdoor sports complex. “The feeling,” says Curtin, “is that the Commons plays an integral role in that process.”

This building is the newest jewel in the crown of Columbus’s architecture scene, which is ranked sixth in the nation for architectural innovation and design by the American Institute of Architects. Cindy Frey, Associate Director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center, says the philosophy is “If we’re going to build it, let’s do it right.”

J. Irwin Miller has this wonderful quote that says, ‘The very best is none too good for any of us.’ He also says, ‘Mediocrity is expensive.’ So, those philosophies are ingrained in us and have been for a very long time.

Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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