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Columbus Commons set to open with aid of local bands

30 p.m. today.

Just a few years ago, the Columbus City Center Mall stood tall in the center of downtown Columbus. Since, it has been the mission of the Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation to take what was once a large shopping center and turn it into a park.

Columbus Commons, the resulting nine-acre downtown park, is opening to the public today. The opening weekend will feature a variety of events intended to bring Columbus residents down to the new landmark.

The official opening ceremony will take place at 6:30 p.m. today, and will feature remarks from Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman as well as other local government officials. Before the ceremony, starting at 4 p.m. there will be a concert featuring performances from four different local bands.

Guy Worley, the president and CEO of Capitol South and the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, said in an email the idea to turn the City Center Mall into a park began back in 2007, when Capitol South gained control of the property.

“It was decided the best use for the site was to demolish the existing massive, abandoned mall and create a green oasis downtown,” he said in the email. “Construction of Columbus Commons began on July 26, 2010, and was substantially completed by the end of 2010.”

Requests asking for the total cost of the project were not immediately returned.

Throughout the rest of the weekend, events will be held in collaboration with the Columbus Zoo, the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Franklin Park Conservatory and the Phoenix Theatre for Children.

Luke Fickell, interim head coach of the Ohio State football team, and former Buckeye quarterback Craig Krenzel will both appear at the Commons on Saturday.

In the email, Worley said that besides these opening weekend events, the Columbus Commons will provide several activities for Columbus residents throughout the summer months.

Every Wednesday the Columbus Commons will hold Lunch on the Lawn, an outdoor picnic featuring a farmers’ market, an art gallery and live music. There will also be evening concerts and weekly fitness classes.

The park will also feature 12 gardens planted by Franklin Park Conservatory. The gardens will feature a variety of plants and trees meant to create scenery year-round.

Worley said in the email Columbus Commons is just one part of an ongoing mission to encourage people to spend their time in downtown Columbus.

“Columbus Commons is a critical component of invigorating our downtown with lively entertainment and activities aimed at drawing people from all facets of the community to live, work and play,” he said in his email. “Visits will become a routine part of their lives for the rest of their lives.”

Callie Perkins, a third-year in social work, said she believes that Columbus Commons could provide students with a new place to enjoy the outdoors.

“I’m an outdoors person,” she said. “I think it would be good to have a park down there. I like outdoor events.”

Sofia Bachman, a second-year in Spanish and Russian, disagrees. She believes a park does not have the economic benefits of a shopping center.

“Nothing against parks, but I think the (City Center Mall) should have stayed,” she said. “It created a lot of jobs.”

Worley said he hopes that Columbus Commons becomes one of the biggest landmarks in the city.

“Columbus Commons will be recognized as every bit the downtown gem as COSI, the North Market, Main Library and others,” he said. “It will be very deserving of that recognition.”

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