Politics & Government

Tear it down now? Here’s what’s happening with the decaying Columbus Government Center

By the Numbers: Here’s what’s happening with the decaying Columbus Government Center

Columbus Council is deciding on whether to rebuild in the Government Center in the same location or build new structures. Government Center has been in downtown Columbus for 48 years. Here are a few recent costs associated with the condition.
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Columbus Council is deciding on whether to rebuild in the Government Center in the same location or build new structures. Government Center has been in downtown Columbus for 48 years. Here are a few recent costs associated with the condition.

Any day now, the fate of the decaying Columbus Government Center will be decided. Part or all of the 48-year-old complex on 10th Street faces almost certain demolition.

After spending millions over the past few years in repairs and maintenance and after hundreds of planning hours and untold meeting time, the Columbus Council is trying to figure out what’s next for the 12-story building.

In January 2017, former Mayor Teresa Tomlinson created the Commission on New Government and Judicial Building to review conditions at the center and to present options for moving forward.

At that time Tomlinson said, “This building has served us well for nearly fifty years,“ but added, “This building no longer serves our needs.“

She listed a litany of concerns:

A worn out heating and air system

A trailer-sized portable generator takes up too much space in parking lot

No sprinkler systems on upper floors

The stairwells are not contained, meaning they can easily fill with smoke

Other issues listed by officials include the fact that the building does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act or other building codes and that prisoners must be transported through the building and do not have a separate entrance.

The Muscogee County Courthouse, built in 1896 for just under $63,500, once stood where the Government Center now stands. Construction of the new government center started in 1972. For a brief period both stood before demolition of the older building.

More than 15 months later, the council and new mayor, Skip Henderson, are looking at these options:

Option 1 would consist of a complete demolition of the wings and parking garage to provide for a new judicial center on the existing site. The tower would be renovated for city administration and a new parking structure would be created on the site.

Option 2 would consist of a complete demolition of the tower, wings and parking garage and provide for a new judicial center, new administration building and new parking deck to be constructed on the site.

Option 3 would consist of a complete demolition of the tower, wings and parking garage and provide for construction of a new judicial center and parking garage on existing site. A building and parking structure for city administration would be constructed on a new site.

Option 4 would consist of a new site for both judicial and administration facilities and parking to support those facilities.

Officials estimate around 300,000 square feet will be needed to replace the complex.

The Mayor's Commission on New Government and Judicial Building considers three options presented by local architects for the 46-year-old building.

By the Numbers

$1 million for 2017 ground floor renovations

$350,000 for emergency pipe repairs in June 2017

$1.1 million insurance settlement to repair damage caused by water main break in June 2018

$2.5 million in bonds issued to address fire and safety issues in October 2018

$150 million maximum estimated project amount for any of the four options

$1,091,600 available budget to evaluate the four options and provide detailed cost information and design

$35 million usual amount the city collects each year in Local Option Sales Tax

51 percent of citizens and officials polled prefer a new complex on a completely new site

How to pay for it

A Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax is the most likely source of funding for the project. Henderson said during his State of the City address earlier this year that he would ask council to consider the tax once the Muscogee County School District tax for special projects expires in 2020.

Voters would be asked to approve the tax that can only be utilized for capital projects.

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