Driving down the west 23rd Street thoroughfare, it’s tough to miss the construction taking place on the nearly 13-acre tract of land Walmart occupied until 2005 when it uprooted and moved to the east side of town.
Now, Bomgaars Supply Inc. is just a little more than a month away from moving its Columbus store into the 55,000 square feet of refurbished space within the previously vacant facility. In addition, about 35,000 square feet of outdoor display space will be occupied by the retailer, as previously reported by The Telegram.
Although the move is providing about four times more space for the business, Store Manager Dan Woulfe noted that only approximately half of the building’s space will be occupied by Bomgaars. There are still no concrete plans for the available space, he said, adding he believes a commercial – not retail – business will likely eventually call the vacant area home.
The store, currently at 3920 23rd St., is expected to be fully moved into the new location by Jan. 28, 2019, Wolfe said. The store manager added that about 100 employees from various Nebraska locations will assist with the move, noting it will take about four days to completely gut the old store. The current shop will only be closed for about a day-and-a-half or two days before customers can take advantage of the new location.
“It will be mostly stocked when customers come in,” he said of the new store. “And it’s kind of the change of the seasons anyhow, so it will be stocked for this time of year and then spring merchandise will be rolling in within about a month-and-a-half.”
Woulfe said he is currently in the process of hiring additional staff – at least 10 additions to the current 30-person staff will be needed to run the larger operation.
Once moved, Woulfe said he and his staff will occupy one of the larger Bomgaars locations in the state.
“It’s exciting for everybody and it’s well needed,” Woulfe said. “We outgrew the building we are in now a few years ago, so it really was time. We are looking forward to serving our same customers and meeting new ones, too. Now that we have outgrown this, we want to maximize the new space we have to better serve our community."
Completion of the Bomgaars project is the first major wave of construction on the site, which is also expected to eventually house a four-story corridor Hampton Inn hotel on approximately 2 acres of vacated parking lot space and a four-story interior corridor apartment complex on another 2-acre plot.
Frontage space along 23rd Street will also be available to include a bank, restaurant or other retail businesses down the road, as previously reported by The Telegram.
In total, the complete project that was jump-started by Lincoln-based WHO Development is expected to run in the $25 million range. The Bomgaars project costs approximately $2.35 million, the hotel $8.59 million and the apartment project $7.95 million. The projects are eligible for more than $3 million in tax-increment financing (TIF), which is an absolute game changer, Mayor Jim Bulkley said.
“I think that TIF was a major impetus that got us excited and made this possible for these developers,” Bulkley said. “We have had these buildings sitting empty for a very, very long time, and suddenly were able to make some of this stuff work.”
Time frames regarding hotel and apartment complex completion are still up in the air, but Bulkley said he’s optimistic that the ball will keep rolling.
“My understanding is that the hotel and apartments are close to coming to us (the city) for our stamp of approval to move forward, it just hasn’t gone through the council yet,” the mayor said. “And we are very anxious to see this come. It’s very good for the community to see this happening.”
Bulkley spoke on several occasions just how “good” the project really is for Columbus. Decades ago, Bulkley said there was a lot of talk about how the west side of Columbus was going to become the retail and business mecca of the city.
“It was really talked about and looked into about 20-25 years ago, but it just never really happened,” he said. “And with the parkway (being put in) in-between Menards and Walmart, a lot more traffic was being seen in the east. And then the connection with Schuyler also brought traffic in. And once stuff started happening on the east it was a snowball effect that really shut down a lot of potential on the west, and things just stagnated.”
But, he added, projects like the one in progress along the west 23rd Street corridor inevitably jump-start growth and economic development in that section of town.
“I think it’s kind of like putting a new light bulb in after one has burned out,” Bulkley said of the new development. “It’s an area that hasn’t had much going on in so long, and now, we have all this happening all of a sudden on that side of town that’s been stagnant for so long … So it really is exciting.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.