Applications filed with state environmental regulators and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers show how Columbus Regional Health originally envisioned developing the former site of the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on the city’s west side.
The nearly 200 pages of documentation, obtained from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, show a conceptual layout for the property that includes a potential five-story, 105,000-square-foot hotel; a two-story, 42,000-square-foot health care facility; and six one-story retail facilities with a combined space of 78,000 square feet.
CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue said the plans are “old” but “not necessarily” outdated.
“It’s more of an idea,” DeClue said. “It’s not to say that a hotel has approached us. It’s the idea of, ‘Would it be possible here?’ If there was a type of business interested in coming to that property, what would they need in order to be able to establish themselves there?”
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The hospital system, through Southeastern Indiana Medical Holdings, a CRH holding company, purchased the 20.7-acre Clarion property on July 17, 2017, for $4.25 million and then demolished the structure.
Since then, CRH has been using rubble from the former Clarion Hotel and Conference Center and debris from the Indiana Department of Transportation work site south of Columbus to Seymour, where contractors are expanding I-65 in both directions from two lanes to three lanes. The materials are being used to raise the property above flood grade level by an average of 5 feet. As of last month, nearly 17,000 cubic yards of repurposed rubble had been placed on the site.
As part of the mitigation process, CRH filed applications with the Army Corps of Engineers and the IDEM in 2018 for authorization to use fill and dredged material on wetlands located on the property.
The application describes CRH’s intention to build a medical facility on the property that could offer primary care, specialty care, urgent care, diagnostic and/or a therapeutic care alternative, according to an application received by IDEM on Oct. 5, 2018.
“A joint effort is being undertaken by the hospital to also provide a modern hotel and retail stores that can accommodate lodging, restaurants, shopping, as well as serve as a state-of-the-art convention center, providing a venue for medical and other professional workshops and seminars,” the application states.
Hospital officials have said the former Clarion land was purchased to better serve Columbus residents on the city’s growing west side, but the FairOaks Mall project has, in some ways, altered plans for the site.
Currently, the former hotel site is covered with heaps of rubble and has been described as an “eyesore” and “a dump” by some local residents who have said in The Republic’s “Around Town” column that the enormous pile of dirt and stone is inappropriate for the entryway from the west side of the city. Some have asked why code enforcement isn’t doing anything about the site’s appearance.
Fred Barnett, Columbus’ code enforcement officer, said in a previous interview that the site is within city compliance as it continues to recycle the construction rubble and raise the dirt level on the property.
“It’s a little out of the city’s control right now,” Barnett said in a previous interview, adding that INDOT has permission to place the material for the hospital to use as fill. “There’s nothing hazardous out there,” he said. “It just looks ugly right now. But there’s nothing harmful or dangerous.”
Once the former hotel site has been mitigated, CRH plans to sell all but about around two to three acres of the land and use the proceeds of the sale to finance the construction of new healthcare facility on the remaining land so that the project is, more or less, “self-funding,” DeClue said.
“We know we’re going to have a presence out there. We know it’s needed,” DeClue said.
DeClue said CRH plans to spend much of this year getting the site ready for future development and that the future layout of the property could change depending on what kinds of businesses express interest in the property.
“There is certainly interest in that land, but we don’t have any formal agreements or anything like that we can speak to at this point,” DeClue said.
The big goal for 2020 is getting the site ready in a uniform way so that it will be ready for any interested party who possibly might want to locate there, she said.
This documentation was obtained from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. CRH officials had filed paperwork with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and IDEM to obtain a permit to use fill material on wetlands.