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Commission Approves Plan to Demolish Main Bar Downtown

Brent Warren Brent Warren Commission Approves Plan to Demolish Main Bar DowntownThe Main Bar building, photo by Brent Warren.
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The Downtown Commission yesterday approved a plan to tear down a historic two-story building at 16 W. Main St., the longtime home of the Main Bar.

The building will be replaced – at least for now – with parking, adding seven new spots to the large surface lot that has surrounded the building for decades.

The owner of the building, an LLC associated with Schiff Properties, also owns the adjacent parcels and has been working on a redevelopment plan for the larger site, which sits at the corner of South High Street near the center of Downtown.

Schiff Properties’ Jared Schiff told the commission that, although he can’t say exactly when they’ll be ready to present a plan for the corner, “I don’t think it’s too far away…I’d say within the next six to 12 months we could potentially have plans in front of the city to review.”

“I can say we really want to do something beautiful at this corner, we know it’s a critical corner to Downtown,” he added. “But of course the timing’s got to be right, and the timing has to make sense for us.”

The vote to approve the demolition was conditioned on the developer getting such a plan approved by the commission within the next two years. A Historic American Buildings Survey (known as a HABS report) will also need to be completed and filed for the building.

If no redevelopment plan comes to fruition, Schiff Properties would be required to improve the existing parking lot – adding landscaping, lighting and other enhancements, as laid out in the city’s design guidelines.

Mike Shannon, lawyer for the developer, had argued at last month’s meeting that the building was beyond repair and a safety risk. He said that the building’s remaining tenant, a second floor bail bondsman office, had been evicted after an engineer’s report came back citing safety concerns.

The city’s Chief Building Official commissioned a second structural inspection – carried out by a different engineer – and the board last month tabled the demolition request until the results of that engineer’s report were ready.

A staff report prepared by the city’s Planning Division summarized the conclusions of the two dueling engineering reports this way: “Both reports indicate that there are structural issues with the building rendering it unsafe.”

Robert Loversidge, the only commissioner to vote against the demolition approval, lamented the loss of the building and questioned whether more couldn’t be done to save it.

“I’ve renovated buildings in much worse shape than this one,” he said. “To go into a rubble stone foundation, civil war-era building and to find that it’s damp, it’s wet, some of the mortar’s missing from the masonry….if that were the criteria [for demolition] there wouldn’t be any old buildings left in Downtown.”

“It’s not a spectacular landmark building by itself,” he added. “On the other hand, every time we lose buildings like this, the ones that remain become much more valuable, and there aren’t very many of these. It is a valuable historic building that’s been unfortunately neglected a long time.”

Columbus Landmarks posted about the vote on its Facebook page shortly after it happened:

There are more than 150 acres of surface parking lots Downtown – most greatly underutilized since the pandemic. They all represent prime opportunities for future infill development but today they are dead zones that detract. We encourage the property owner to take advantage of this key site with a real plan and a commitment to and investment in a healthy and successful city. Soon!

For more information on the Downtown Commission, see www.columbus.gov. A recording of Tuesday’s virtual meeting is also available on the city’s youtube page.

A view of the building and adjacent parking lot from High Street. Photo by Brent Warren.
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