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Columbus Partnership Buys Vacant Downtown Building

Brent Warren Brent Warren Columbus Partnership Buys Vacant Downtown Building145 S. Front St. in 2019. Photo by Brent Warren.
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The Columbus Partnership has bought a prominent building Downtown and plans to work with a local developer to renovate it.

Some combination of retail, office and residential uses is likely for the seven-story building at 145 S. Front St., according to Alex Fischer, President and CEO of the Columbus Partnership.

The organization first signed a purchase agreement for the building in 2019, but a shifting of priorities due to the pandemic delayed the transfer.

Home to the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services until 2006, the State of Ohio made several attempts to renovate the building before eventually initiating a process to sell the property.

Fischer characterized the deal as a “one-and-done” project, and not a sign that the Columbus Partnership – which counts over 70 area CEOs as members – is planning a larger shift in its mission toward real estate development.

“I view it as more of a community play in partnership with the state, to reactivate this important block of downtown,” he said, pointing to the building’s proximity to the Scioto River, the Ohio Supreme Court building, and nearby residential developments.

The project also falls under what Fischer called the Partnership’s “prosperity agenda,” and the inclusion of affordable or workforce housing within the new development could be a way to advance that work, he said.

He added that part of the motivation for purchasing the building is his concern that someone else it would buy it and just sit on it, waiting for the market to improve but not bringing any more activity or life into the neighborhood in the meantime.

Developer Brad DeHays has been tapped to work with the Partnership on the project. DeHays’ Connect Realty has redeveloped several historic buildings in and around Downtown, including the Municipal Light Plant, the Stoddart Block on South Fourth Street, and a cluster of buildings at the corner of Long and Front streets. Other projects include the Trolley District and the Standard Building.

Although the original intent was for the Partnership to move its own offices from the Lazarus building into the 145 S. Front St. building across the street, Fischer said that those plans are still up in the air.

A final development plan for the building probably won’t be settled until the end of the year, he added, pushing a target completion date for the project into the second half of 2023.

“Post pandemic…with the new flexibility and choices by employers and employees, I think employers will have to think about placemaking; creating the environments that are special and that both attract and retain their employees,” Fischer said. “I don’t believe office space is going away, but it’s going to look different in the future, and this building is an opportunity for us to demonstrate that.”

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