Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, October 10, 2021


Renovation of the former Carson’s at FairOaks Mall is expected to begin soon as Columbus Regional Health moves forward with its portion of the NexusPark project.

Hospital officials discussed the proposed work at a recent meeting of the Fair Oaks Community Development Corp. Board.

“Our first occupancy, from CRH’s side, will be in September, hopefully, of 2022, if schedules continue as planned,” said CRH President and CEO Jim Bickel.

“It will be located in the old Carson’s space for that service.”

The store closed in 2018. It was one of the mall’s original anchor tenants in 1990 and initially operated as an Elder-Beerman. The space saw some use in the fall of 2020, operating as a voting location during the election.

David Lenart, director of facilities and materials for the hospital, said that the plan is to keep the roof and exterior wall structure but “change much within the inside of the building.”

CRH is looking to create a demolition package to go out at the end of this month, he said. Then “selective demo or targeted demolition” will begin in the former Carson’s building and possibly extending to the east of the Carson’s space.

“We’re going to let some of the demo package get detailed out before we commit to what we’re going to be tearing down in the next couple of months,” he added. “The one thing we know, from a FOCDC standpoint, is we want to maintain as much mall-walking as possible, especially if we’re going through the winter months.”

Figuring out how much to take on at a time could be the team’s “biggest challenge,” Lenart said. The hospital plans to maintain space for walking, but it could be on a smaller track for a couple of months until the work is finished. It’s also possible a larger track might be part of the final product.

NexusPark is a joint venture between the city of Columbus and Columbus Regional Health. The two entities partnered in 2018 to purchase the mall with the goal of turning into a wellness and recreation center.

On CRH’s side, the hope is to complete the design development phase in December and go out to bid in January, Lenart said.

“Our first department is targeted to go in Sept. 1 of 2022,” he added. “We will look at a continuation of our buildout for the rest of our services to come in line probably in the fall of 2023. And we may be having a multi-phased approach.”

On the city’s side, Director of Community Development and Administration Mary Ferdon said officials are currently focusing on two pieces. One is a fieldhouse, which will be on the north side of the property. The other involves parks department spaces, which will be located inside the current property.

“The city will have another design workshop with our architects and other teams in October as we work through the final schematic design and the cost estimations and phases,” Ferdon said. “…We’re still on schedule. We’re still hoping that by the winter of 2022, we’ll have fieldhouse bid documents, and by spring of 2022 we’ll have our park space bid documents.”

In regards to funding, she said the city plans to use an estimated $20 million to $22 million EDIT bond for the fieldhouse and a park bond of about $11 million for the parks department spaces. Final numbers will depend on factors such as project costs and interest rates, and the city hopes to sell these bonds in May of 2022.