Though some still complained the design didn’t fit the setting, the city board that regulates historic properties OK’d Columbus State University’s plans for a new building at the corner of 12th Street and Broadway.
The building’s to replace the six-story, 1950s office tower that once housed parts of the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer newspaper, which moved Feb. 2 to sections of the Hardaway Building at 945 Broadway.
CSU plans to preserve the newspaper’s historic 1931 Mediterranean-revival building and a 1950s addition to it at 12th Street and Front Avenue, but demolish the rest of the old newspaper complex that includes a warehouse, press bay and loading dock.
The university will replace the office tower once called the Page Building with a three-story structure housing the College of Education and Health Professions, which it hopes to open downtown in the fall of 2016.
Estimated to cost $20 million to $25 million, the 90,000-square-foot college is expected to draw up to 1,800 students and faculty.
But when the city’s Board of Historic and Architectural Review last month saw CSU’s proposed design for the new building, some representatives didn’t like it. They said its grand entrance with a flat overhang and glass façade was out of place among Broadway’s historic storefronts.
Some continued that criticism during a follow-up meeting Monday.
“That is just totally out of place, that corner,” said Sandi Green, who chairs the board.
“The original city has got to be historic,” said board member Judith Nail.
Architect Sudhir Patel of Barnes, Gibson and Patel Architects, who laid out the plans, said the new building intentionally differs from the old, because designers try not to replicate a historic structure with an addition.
When adding to historic buildings, “it is imperative that you maintain the sanctity of the old and the new,” he said. New construction is expected to look new: “We don’t go backward. We go forward.”
He pointed out how the new building will continue some themes of the old: Precast concrete along the building’s north and east facades will fit with the stucco façade of the Mediterranean-revival building, and adding wider “storefront” windows along Broadway will continue the overall street pattern.
A second-floor balcony or terrace facing Broadway will overlook the building’s main entrance, he said.
Among the architects on the board is Robert Kidd, who said he liked the design.
“You can really see how those rhythms are continued,” he said of the elements meant to fit the streetscape.
The building’s grand entrance is not inappropriate for an educational institution, he said.
Board member Alex Griggs, also an architect, said he also liked the design, with some reservations. He agreed with Patel that the new building should “not try to look like the old architecture, but respect it.”
Some board members wanted Patel to close a gap along Broadway south of the old office tower, where the Ledger-Enquirer demolished buildings to add a parking lot. Patel said CSU didn’t need that space for classrooms. “We don’t have enough program to stretch the building,” he said.
The university will fence that stretch along Broadway, and later may build a café on the property’s south end, Patel said.
Kidd ended the discussion by saying Patel appeared to be on the right track to address the board’s critique, so the applicants needn’t keep coming back with updates. He moved to approve the application and others agreed. No one voted to deny it.
After the meeting, CSU spokesman John Lester said people downtown should see demolition of the old buildings start soon.