Archives to unveil history of downtown redevelopment

The Columbus Indiana Architectural Archives is launching a new exhibit this week — a look back at the efforts to redevelop and improve the downtown area.

Tricia Gilson, archivist and curator of the archives, explains that the exhibit will look back at the various plans and proposals for downtown, stretching from the days of Death Valley, to The Commons and Mill Race Park, and then to various retail plans morphing to the modern day efforts that led to the new Cummins office buildings downtown and a commercial focus.

“It has shifted a lot over the years,” GIlson said. “Initially it was trying to get rid of blight, having businesses downtown, retail businesses.  They were thinking about downtown as the retail nexus for the city…”

“As shopping and retail centers have spread out from downtown, people have decided that it is really, really difficult to keep downtown as this vibrant retail center and offices seem to be a better match.”

The exhibit will feature maps, plans, diagrams, photos and other artifacts from the archive’s collection, illustrating the development Gilson said.

As a relative newcomer to Columbus, Gilson said that one of the most interesting discoveries for her was the process of locating of the U.S. Post Office in downtown. She said the original plan was to build a postal sorting center near Interstate 65, but downtown business leaders talked the agency into building the architecturally significant building on Jackson Street.

“To me it is fascinating, because it shows the power of the downtown business merchants coming together for a common cause,” Gilson said.

The exhibit runs through Aug. 26th at the IU Center for Art and Design on Jackson Street. An opening reception will be held Friday from 6  to 8 p.m. at the school. Food and beverages will be available.

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