Council approves $11.5 million bond for NexusPark renovations

Columbus City Council has given its approval for an up to $11.5 million dollar parks bond that would allow the city to turn parts of the former Fair Oaks Mall into offices and public spaces for parks and recreation department.

At the council meeting this week, members voted to approve the second and final reading of the ordinance for the bond. Councilwoman Elaine Hilber brought up a situation in Westfield, where the city is selling off a sports complex because it can’t make the payments on the bonds.

Pam Harrell with the parks department said that the Westfield sports complex is much larger, and is an inside-outside facility. And Westfield’s complex is put to larger uses outside of the scope of government operations, such as hosting the Colts, she said.

The bond would be repaid through property taxes in the city. The city’s financial advisor, Andrew Lanam with Stifel Financial Corp, previously explained that Columbus has one other general obligation bond outstanding, taken out for The Commons, which would be retired in 2028. The Nexus Park bond if approved, would raise the tax rate for bonds from two cents now to about three cents, he said. The bonds would be paid off in 2041.

The council voted 6-1 to approve the bonds with Hilber voting against the ordinance. Hilber has been opposed to the NexusPark plans in prior votes, expressing concerns about the existing Donner Center facility and tying up so much of the income tax revenue for so long for the fieldhouse portion of the project.

To build the fieldhouse portion of the project, the city has also approved a $1.8 million annual lease payment from the city’s economic development income taxes. That would take about half of the city’s annual economic development income tax revenue for the 25-year length of the lease.

The city envisions a roughly 150,000 square foot fieldhouse on the north side of the former mall. The fieldhouse itself would cost about $25 million, financed through the city’s Columbus Municipal Facilities Building Corporation.