Reprinted with permission from The Republic newspaper, February 12, 2022

Work has begun on a portion of the NexusParksite designated for Columbus Regional Health facilities, though the more heavy interior demolition won’t take place for at least a few more weeks.

CRH facility engineer Casey Gibson said that workers began removing ceiling tiles Tuesday,and some preparation on the site took place prior to that.

“They’ve just been training, and they laid down some OSB on the floor so that their lifts done damage the existing tile,” she said. “They’ve been making the area safe.”

The west portion of the facility is closed for interior demolition and construction. Entrances are still open on the east side, and a modified walking path has been set up from Bath &Body Works to Dunham’s. A construction barrier is in place for safety purposes.

“We’ve made the provision of having a window in the separation wall, and the public’s free to gaze in from that point,” said David Lenart, director of facilities and materials for the hospital.

In addition to removing ceiling tiles, Gibson said that workers will make sure that “all services to the space are properly disconnected” prior to the more in-depth demolition,which is tentatively expected to get underway during the final week of February.

Lenart said in late December that the hospital hoped to begin interior demolition on January 10. However, this ended up being delayed.

“I think they (the contractors) were just trying to get their ducks in a row, so to speak,with safety and onboarding subs and just making sure everybody was properly insured,”said Gibson.

Internal demolition will likely take a couple of months, said Lenart in a previous interview. After that, the next step is “starting to build everything back.”

CRH officials have said in the past that they plan to take first occupancy at the former Carson’s in fall of 2022, and this estimate was shared on the new NexusPark website that was launched in January.

As of December, Lenart expected construction at the site to take multiple months and likely extend into mid-2023. He added that CRH was trying to understand how supply chain issues might affect the project before giving an updated estimate for when they would open the site.

According to the NexusPark website, CRH plans to provide “a wide offering of primary care and specialty care offerings along with lab, therapy and personalized navigation and wellness services.”

NexusPark is the city and Columbus Regional Health’s joint endeavor to transform the former FairOaks Mall into a health, wellness, and recreation center. The two entities partnered in 2018 to purchase the mall facility and property at a 25% to 75% split, with the city retaining majority ownership for parks and recreation and sports tourism development. The Heritage Fund The Community Foundation provided the difference between the selling price and the appraised value.

The campus is expected to include an indoor fieldhouse, Columbus Parks administrative and recreational spaces, restaurant and retail areas, and CRH facilities. The NexusPark site also states that “outdoor community park and gathering spaces” are planned, and Dunham’s is expected to remain on-site under its current lease.