Vita longa, ars brevis

And after everything, they decided not to build the parking garage at all.

State Auto backs off building garage after destroying Downtown mural

The Columbus Dispatch
June 23, 2020
Mark Ferenchik |  [email protected]

State Auto has decided not to build a $20 million parking garage behind its headquarters at 518 E. Broad St., Downtown.

State Auto spokesman Kyle Anderson said that since mid-March, more than 95% of the company’s employees have been working from home. State Auto leaders are still trying to understand how that will affect the workforce going forward.

“It just doesn’t make sense to add 800-plus parking spaces,” he said.

In 2019, State Auto demolished a warehouse on which Columbus College of Art & Design students had painted a mural that replicated “A Street Called Home,” a work by local Black artist Aminah Robinson that hangs in the nearby Columbus Museum of Art. Robinson died in 2015.

Some local residents and preservationists were upset, questioning why State Auto couldn’t have saved the work.

When she learned of the decision, Nana Watson, president of the Columbus chapter of the NAACP, said tearing down the mural was insensitive.

“It erased a part of our history,” Watson said. “It showed a lack of appreciation for Black history. Shame on them.”

Drivers heading east on East Long Street could easily see the work, as could students at CCAD and Columbus State Community College.

State Auto officials said they needed the four-story garage because of plans to move employees from a Downtown location at 175 S. 3rd St. and from Gahanna.

The number of employees there was to grow from 1,075 to 1,200 with room for 1,400.

In February, the company put a temporary halt on the plans as officials considered other options.

The nearby nonprofit Jefferson Avenue Center was able to obtain 10 pieces of the mural to reassemble on the campus. An artist will fill in the blanks, said Katharine Moore, the center’s executive director.

“We certainly understand that these unforeseen circumstances have changed most everything about the world. I do appreciate that they never could have foreseen this,” Moore said.

Anderson said that State Auto will submit plans to the Downtown Commission about landscaping, lighting and drainage. The company also plans to incorporate “opportunities for local artists,” Anderson said, although the company still needs to work out specifics with architects.

Becky West, executive director of Columbus Landmarks, said she hopes that State Auto will invest in some sort of public art to benefit the neighborhood.

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