(Columbus) The Republic

City leaders have given initial approval to appropriate more than $4 million toward the purchase of the FairOaks Mall, which will be overseen by a non-profit organization in a deal that is expected to close next month.

The Columbus City Council on Monday voted 5-0 to pass an ordinance appropriating $2.25 million in Economic Development Income Tax (EDIT) funds toward the purchase amount, $1,337,500 from the city’s general fund and up to another $200,000 in EDIT funds for due-diligence costs, estimated closing costs and necessary capital reserves for the real estate purchase. A final vote is expected to come in two weeks.

The council approved a similar ordinance in a 5-0 vote to use $500,000 from the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department’s general fund reserves toward the mall purchase.

City Councilman Dascal Bunch was absent from the meeting, while City Councilwoman Elaine Wagner was not in the council chambers when the mall-funding votes took place.

The city announced in late August that it planned to purchase the 35-acre mall property at 25th Street and Central Avenue from New FairOaks Mall Owner LLC for $5.9 million through a partnership with Columbus Regional Hospital and a grant from the Heritage Fund — The Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.

The city plans to turn the mall into a community recreational and sports tourism complex, with the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department a likely tenant.

The city will pay $4,087,500, or 75 percent, of the property’s $5.45 million appraised value, while the hospital will pay $1,362,500, which represents 25 percent of the appraised value. The Heritage Fund has also committed to providing $450,000, which reflects the difference between the agreed-upon selling price and the appraised value, according to the city.

The funding by the council will be placed in the bank account of the FairOaks Community Development Corp. if the council approves the ordinances a second and final time Nov. 20.

Once the deal closes, no changes in mall operations are planned for 2019, said Tom Brosey, a consultant hired by the city to assist with the purchase of the mall.

However, Brosey said officials will continue to plan what a revamped mall will look like, noting that the process is expected to take all of next year. Some visits have already been made, and additional ones will also be explored to see what other cities have done, Brosey said.

The council also approved a resolution authorizing Mayor Jim Lienhoop, who serves as president of the FairOaks Community Development Corp., to sign a purchase agreement for the mall. Officials are expected to close on the mall transaction by Dec. 14, he said.

The eight-member FairOaks Community Development Corp. board of directors — made up of representatives appointed by the city and Columbus Regional Hospital — will also be required to approve the purchase agreement, Lienhoop said.

Columbus resident Ken Fudge asked Lienhoop during the meeting about any maintenance that might be needed on the building, but Lienhoop told Fudge those discussions would occur publicly as the corporation intends to follow the state’s Open Door and Open Records laws.

In other action, the council also approved the first reading of an ordinance appropriating $251,463 from the city’s substance abuse non-reverting fund for its share establishing a hub to be overseen by the Alliance for Substance Abuse Progress.

The hub is expected to be established in December if the council gives final approval to the ordinance later this month, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development with the city.