Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, January 2, 2022

A section of FairOaks Mall will close for interior demolition, later followed by construction, for Columbus Regional Health’s portion of the NexusPark project.

One sign posted at a mall entrance near the former Carson’s states, “Beginning early January 2022, this entrance will be closed due to construction activity. Please use the entrances toward the east end of the facility.”

A neighboring sign shows temporary building changes starting in January. A construction barrier will block off the west portion of the mall, and a modified path for mall walkers will be in place from Bath &Body Works to Dunham’s.

“This is just basically the first phase of some of the changes that are going to start to evolve with … NexusPark’s repurposing,” said David Lenart, director of facilities and materials for the hospital. “And we’re excited to get this kicked off.”

NexusPark is a joint endeavor between the city and CRH to transform the FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness and recreation center.

In the first week of January, a demising wall will be installed to separate the area slated for interior demolition (and later construction) from the rest of the mall, Lenart said.

The hospital is looking to begin demolition on the week of Jan. 10.

“All of the exterior walls will remain intact,” he said. “We’re just taking down all the old, I guess, tenant partitions, all of the old mechanical and electrical systems, lighting systems, some of the interior finishes — walls, ceilings and the like — and everything that really will be changed with the new uses.”

Demolition will likely take a couple of months. After that, the next step is “starting to build everything back,” said Lenart. They will start from the northwest corner and Carson’s extension and then move southward.

The construction will be “multiple months’ worth of work,” likely extending into the middle of 2023.

Lenart added that certain exterior doors will be closed during the work, as these enter directly into the construction area. Residents will likely see construction trailers, trucks and dumpsters outside of the building.

“It’s going to seem like quite a busy little site for quite a few months,” he said.

CRH President and CEO Jim Bickel said in October that, if things went according to schedule, the hospital would take its first occupancy in September of 2022 at the former Carson’s.

“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,” Lenart said. “And we may be having a multi-phased approach.”

At present, however, Lenart said that CRH is trying to understand how supply chain issues might affect the project.

“Until we get more of our design work finalized and bid out for pricing purposes and committed under contract, we won’t know what the supply chain impact is,” he said. “So we’re trying to be mindful of that before we start really stating when we’re going to have things open. Right now, just too many things are in flux.”

The plan is still for first occupancy to take place at the former Carson’s space.

In the spaces that will see demolition and later construction, the hospital plans to incorporate mainly “patient care-related services,” said Lenart. He added that this includes everything from primary care and specialty services to therapy.