A blank marble wall and potholed Downtown lot would become a lush, terraced patio for book lovers and park-goers under the Columbus Metropolitan Library's plan to buy the former Ohio State School for the Deaf.
A blank marble wall and potholed Downtown lot would become a lush, terraced patio for book lovers and park-goers under the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s plan to buy the former Ohio State School for the Deaf.
Vacant for about six years, the former school at 400 E. Town St. most recently was used as an office building and to house the state welfare department. The library is in contract to buy the 2.24-acre property for $2.16 million.
Last year, both the library and Cristo Rey Columbus High School, currently in Franklinton, learned that the property was available and that each was interested in buying it.
“We were both pursuing it independently,” said Jim Foley, president of Cristo Rey, a Catholic college-preparatory school for low-income families. “We are very interested in the property. We need to find a permanent location.”
Under an arrangement with the city of Columbus, the library had first rights to buy the property, library Director Pat Losinski said. Under one development scenario, the library would sell the deaf-school building to Cristo Rey but retain the parking lot directly behind the Main Library. That would be converted into an outdoor plaza.
The library’s stone wall would be replaced by glass and “create a much more inspiring, useful and dramatic civic space in the Discovery District,” Losinski said. “Maybe this even spurs economic development around the library.”
The library also could move its administrative offices into the building. That would open up more meeting space in the Main Library, Losinski said. The plan would cost the library as much as $11 million for renovations, however.
Columbus has increasingly sought creative ways to promote its parks, city leaders say.
“There are people who go to the library who aren’t aware that the park is back there ... because there’s no interaction between the two,” said Dan Williamson, spokesman for Mayor Michael B. Coleman. “We have two great assets that should be attracting the same folks on the same visits."
A business also might qualify for historical tax credits to help remodel the building, Losinski said. The library, as a tax-exempt entity, wouldn’t qualify.
If Cristo Rey moves in, the school would have parking for about 50 faculty and staff members in the remaining portion of its lot, Foley said.
The building is currently owned by Campus Apartments, which also owns the Seneca apartments, some of whose tenants have access to the parking lot.
Losinski envisions an educational corridor near the Main Library, with Franklin University, Capital Law School, Columbus College of Art & Design and Columbus State University all within walking distance.
Bryant Park, next to the New York City Public Library, was an inspiration, Losinski said.
“It’s community space that inspires — feeds the curious and helps the community to move closer to attain their educational goals.”