Franklin County grasp plan proposes new Downtown little one care heart

The current prison in downtown Franklin County should be demolished to make way for a daycare center, on the recommendation of an advisor under review by the Committee of Commissioners.

A new parking garage could also be part of the mix as district and city officials juggle the office space, with the upcoming construction of a new local court and other changes already in the works.

The ideas are contained in an update to the Franklin County’s Building Master Plan, which provides an overview of all offices used by different counties and forecasts of future square footage needs.

Final decisions have not yet been made to proceed with the recommendations and it will take years to complete the demolition, design and construction.

“All of these are still in the ‘recommended’ stage, they have not yet been approved,” said Assistant District Administrator Kris Long. “The commissioners have received the recommendations and the staff are currently evaluating … the priorities and the availability of funds.”

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The master plan was initially completed in 2007 and updated in 2012. The last update was a few years ago, and the coronavirus has shaped the county’s approach to its land needs.

“We usually talk about agencies that need more space,” Long said. “We’re checking whether agencies are using this space as they were before. Or maybe they need a little more space … (for) distributed areas for visitors and others in the next phase of the pandemic. “

Franklin County’s government and elected officials operate in approximately 30 different facilities with approximately 2 million square feet of floor space. The grand total includes the District Government Center in South High Street Downtown, which houses the City Court, administrative offices and the Downtown Jail.

Plans are underway for some of the space currently used by the Franklin County’s offices. For example, the James A. Karnes Building and the Dorrian Commons are sold to the city. Located just across the street east of the main county government complex on South High, the space will house a new local court building.

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District officials are also in the final stages of the first stage of a new prison located on Fisher Road west of downtown. This location is expected to open to inmates early next year, and district officials will close the old downtown prison afterwards.

The updated master plan provides for the latter to be demolished and replaced by a childcare facility for employees or visitors to the district offices.

The proposed facilities and services would be similar to those offered to government employees at the Riffe Center just up the street on South High, with childcare in the same building as the Ohio Legislature.

Commissioners have long supported the addition of childcare facilities for staff and members of the public, including possible on-site operations, Long said.

“I fully support it,” said Commissioner Erica Crawley, a former state lawmaker and single mother of twin girls, who was elected to the board about a month ago. “There is a day-care center for the staff on the reef … It is necessary. We also need a point of contact. When we ask people to come here for courts or hearings or whatever, we have to make sure we break down barriers. “

A concept plan provides for additional green areas and an outdoor playground for children as well as a multi-storey building on the site of the current prison with secure parking spaces, loading ramps and post office operations.

The Franklin County Government Center.

Don Wheat, senior vice president at Pizzuti Cos., Who was hired by the county to update the master plan, said the room could accommodate about 200 children.

The project would cost an estimated $ 11-14.5 million, including demolishing the prison and rebuilding it.

“Even under the fastest scenario, we are still years away,” said Long, taking into account the demolition and rebuilding times of the prison.

In addition to other master plan recommendations, district officials are considering adding 500 to 600 spaces to an existing parking garage on East Fulton Street and building a new parking garage on East Mound Street with 1,200 to 1,300 additional parking spaces. The district already owns an adjacent property and could combine the two to provide parking for employees and visitors.

“This is another prime location for another parking garage,” said Long.

The larger master building plan also recommends moving the central operations of the sheriff’s office, the county’s child benefit enforcement agency, and aging office and other offices to the existing city court after construction of the new building across the street is completed. (A final schedule for this project has not yet been set, although it would likely take six or seven years.)

“It gives us the opportunity to really look for agencies that would make more sense to work more closely,” said Long.

In addition, some county offices could move from the higher levels of the 26-story Franklin County Office Tower to the main hall for easier public access to government offices and services.

“Finding your way around the county-town complex can be a bit of a challenge at times, so this is sure to be a top priority as we become much more public and user-friendly in the future,” said Long.

Wheat added, “This creates a public interaction zone where the agencies bring their staff up to this level to interact with the public in a safe environment … It’s very easy and flexible in terms of setup.”

As for next steps, Long said the county council is reviewing the updated recommendations from the master plan and may be able to identify priority projects late this year or early next year.

“We know without a doubt that we will close the Downtown Prison next year,” she said. “The timing was perfect to have this master plan so we can make deliberate decisions about where to relocate agencies that make the most sense. … Many of these movements have cascading domino effects. “

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