Opinion

Historic depot building might be changing hands

The Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce is facing a preservation vs. practicality dilemma with which we at the Ledger-Enquirer can identify.

The chamber is headquartered in a building of immense local historic significance, the 115-year-old downtown train depot, closed for rail service in 1971 but renovated and reopened in 1987 as corporate headquarters of a financial company now known as TSYS. TSYS built its shiny new digs on the riverfront, the chamber bought the depot, and the 1901 Romanesque building has been the chamber's base since the historic landmark's centennial year.

But structural needs change, sometimes in spite of us, with changing times and circumstances; structures themselves do not. Chamber President Brian Anderson noted that the chamber staff is now less than half what it was when it first occupied the depot: "Having a 30,000-square-foot building is not feasible for us."

The proverbial "white knight" for the 1930 Ledger-Enquirer building, of course, proved to be Columbus State University, which saved the historic structure and is now retrofitting and renovating the interior for academic and administrative use.

The depot might -- with emphasis on might -- have found a buyer as well.

Paul Kilpatrick, treasurer for the law firm Pope McGlamry PC, confirmed the formation of a limited liability corporation to consider moving its Columbus offices in the depot. Anderson said the chamber is "ready to have that conversation," and raised the possibility that the chamber could remain in the building by leasing the space it needs.

As of now, "conversation" is indeed all -- at least publicly -- that has happened with regard to such a development. But the prospect of keeping an important piece of this city's history alive is always a good one.

Heavy water

The fiscal and administrative weight of the Columbus Aquatic Center isn't getting any lighter. It certainly hasn't in the relatively short time since the mayor and council tasked Parks and Rec Director James Worsley with gathering ideas from a task force about how to keep the facility open for the full 89 hours a week its regular users apparently demand.

This much was made clear at Tuesday's council meeting: (1) Worsley needs more money to keep the swim center running on its full schedule; and (2) it isn't coming from the city -- if there's funding to be found, Worsley will have to find it. He (or the committee) will have to get money from donors or fund-raising events or sponsorships; he will have to cut back on resources in other parts of the Parks and Rec budget and move them to the Aquatic Center; or the facility's hours will have to be cut back.

So it's back to square one. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

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