The Columbus Square Shopping Center remains in the running to have a portion of the closed Kroger store become office space for Franklin County Children Services.

The Columbus Square Shopping Center remains in the running to have a portion of the closed Kroger store become office space for Franklin County Children Services.

George Hadler of the Hadler Cos., owners of the shopping center at Cleveland Avenue and East Dublin-Granville Road, said as much last week and the communications director for Children Services confirmed it.

Such a move would help salve some of the wounds left when officials with Cincinnati-based Kroger announced the closing of the Columbus Square store.

The last day of business was July 10.

"With the lease expiring at this location, it was determined during our evaluation that we were unable to continue a profitable operation at the 5727 Emporium Square location and made the decision to not renew our lease and to close the store on July 10," Robert Clark, vice president of operations for Kroger's Columbus division, said in the mid-May announcement.

Kroger had operated a store in the center since the late 1980s after purchasing it from Cub Foods.

Commensurate with the news from Kroger, Hadler said his firm had responded to a request for proposals from Franklin County Children Services regarding office space. He said the Hadler Cos. was willing to spend "millions of dollars" in turning part of the 83,000-square-foot grocery store into offices. The proposal had made the short list and is still on it, Hadler said last week.

"They have not yet made a decision, and basically, they just sent out a notification saying they were continuing to evaluate all their options," Hadler said. "As far as I know, it's still very much a possibility. We would be delighted. We feel we have the best location and we've worked hard to keep the rent reasonable."

"All the proposals, including that one, are still under evaluation," said Deborrha Armstrong, the Children Services communications director.

Armstrong could not say exactly what portion of the county agency's operations would be in new office space, although she said it would not be the administrative operations on West Mound Street.

She also said no date had been set for making the decision.

"We don't have a definite timeframe," Armstrong said.

The last correspondence Hadler Cos. received from Children Services "was kind of vague on that," the company president said.

"I would certainly hope within the next month or so," Hadler added.

Meanwhile, finding another food store for Columbus Square appears to be the thing residents most want. Hadler said his firm is working on that front, too. He cautioned that any food store that might be drawn to the shopping center would doubtless be much smaller than Kroger.

"You certainly hate to see a center that size without a food store, but the market is the market, and retailers that are expanding and relocating just have a lot of choices," Hadler said.