City officials are preparing to begin spending funds from the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative (READI), starting with $6 million for NexusPark.
Columbus City Council has approved a resolution to create a READI Grant Fund, as well as an ordinance to appropriate $6 million from that fund for NexusPark. The two votes were unanimous among the six council members who attended Tuesday’s meeting. Councilwoman Elaine Hilber, who has expressed some concerns about the mall redevelopment project in the past, was not present at the meeting.
The South Central Indiana Talent Region— which includes Bartholomew, Jackson and Jennings counties, as well as Edinburgh — was awarded a $30 million READI grant in December. The competitive grant program encouraged Indiana communities to partner together on proposals for future growth and improvement in their region, particularly in regards to talent attraction and retention.
The Indiana State Board of Accounts is requiring local governments to each create a READI Grant Fund for auditing purposes.
Additionally, state officials have recently begun approving READI allocations for specific projects. Gov. Eric Holcomb visited Columbus in late June to announce a number of these awards, including a $6 million grant for NexusPark.
“This project, this NexusPark, is exactly what we were looking for,” said Holcomb during his announcement, which was held in the former Carson’s. “It’s kind of outside-the-box thinking where it’s customer-centric, a community magnet that’s going to pull thousands upon thousands of residents and visitors to this very patch of property.”
NexusPark is expected to include an indoor fieldhouse, Columbus Parks administrative and recreational spaces, restaurant and retail areas and CRH facilities. The NexusPark site will also have “outdoor community park and gathering spaces” and Dunham’s is expected to remain on-site under its current lease.
According to state officials, only parks offices and community spaces at NexusPark will be funded through READI. This includes parks administration offices, community conference rooms, youth multi-purpose rooms, low-cost fitness areas, a child watch area and a teaching kitchen.
City Director of Finance, Operations and Risk Jamie Brinegar said that an outdoor recreation space is also included in the areas funded by the grant.
While the $6 million appropriation for NexusPark was handled through an ordinance — which normally must be voted on at two meetings in order to be approved — council members voted to suspend the rules and hold both readings in one night.