Columbus chamber of commerce working deal to sell depot

By Chuck Williams

Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.comThe historic Columbus Depot is home to the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce. 01/28/16
Mike Haskey mhaskey@ledger-enquirer.comThe historic Columbus Depot is home to the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce. 01/28/16

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce is exploring the possibility of selling the historic downtown train depot it has owned for about 15 years and it looks like there could be a buyer.

A prominent local law firm, Pope McGlamry PC, is exploring the possibility of a deal that would put its offices in the depot. Pope McGlamry has formed a limited liability corporation that could lease a portion of the building to the firm, according to Paul Kilpatrick. Some of the firm’s lawyers would be a part of the ownership group, but not all of them, Kilpatrick said.

“All I can say at this point is that we are in discussions and we would like for that to occur,” said Kilpatrick, an attorney who is the firm’s treasurer. “Right now, we are doing all of the things that we need to do. …  We are excited about the possibility.”

Chamber President Brian Anderson said Thursday that Pope McGlamry officials were doing their due diligence about the possible purchase, but that it was premature to say that a deal has been reached.

“We are ready to have that conversation,” Anderson said of the potential sale.

If the purchase happens, there is a possibility that the chamber of commerce could lease space in the depot from the new owners, Kilpatrick said.

Pope McGlamry has offices in Columbus and Atlanta with about 17 lawyers in the two locations. The Columbus office is on the fourth floor of the Synovus Centre. The firm has been in the location since the downtown riverfront building opened in 2004. Their lease expires at the end of April, Kilpatrick said.

The Chamber of Commerce has been in the depot since August 2001. The chamber’s purchase of the building was part of a deal to allow the construction of the TSYS downtown campus. Prior to the chamber moving into the depot, it had served as the corporate headquarters of TSYS since its 1987 renovation.

In recent years, the chamber has not needed the nearly 30,000 square foot building. The move to find a buyer started about two years ago, long before Anderson took over as president seven months ago.

“We were a staff of 30 and right now we are a staff of 14, and I don’t see us going back to 30,” Anderson said. “Having a 30,000-square-foot building is not feasible for us.”

The chamber has been marketing the building, but has not gone as far as putting a “For Sale” sign in front of the iconic 115-year-old structure on Sixth Avenue.

“We have been trying to do a soft sale,” Anderson said.

The building, constructed in 1901, features the Romanesque architectural style characterized by  horizontal, heavy lines and round arches that frame the doors and windows. It was a passenger and freight train service until 1971. At that point, it was unoccupied and fell into disrepair and stayed that way until the mid-1980s renovation.