The Franklin County Board of Elections was scheduled to reopen this week at its new digs: the former Kohl's department store at 1700 Morse Road.
The board's entire operations will be housed at the Northland location, but the warehouse on Alum Creek Drive will be maintained through the November general election.
The move, which community leaders hailed as a welcome development when the idea first surfaced in December 2012, involved closing down the offices where the board has been headquartered since 2001 at Memorial Hall on East Broad Street as of July 10 and reopening once the move was completed Tuesday, July 15, according to an announcement from board spokesman Ben Piscitelli.
"It's been a long time coming," board of elections Director William Anthony said last week. "This is a much larger facility and for the first time, we're able to put our warehouse and main office in one facility. That's going to have some efficiencies that we've been looking for."
"The Morse Road facility has been renovated to give Franklin County additional space for day-to-day elections business and enough room to accommodate large numbers of early voters, plus free parking for hundreds of cars," Piscitelli said. "The complex covers more than 90,000 square feet compared to roughly 70,000 square feet at two existing locations: the board's main office in downtown Columbus and a warehouse at 1719 Alum Creek Drive where voting machines are stored and votes are counted on Election Night."
The elections board stores more than 4,500 voting machines at the warehouse for use in the general election, said Deputy Director Dana Walch.
"It's more efficient to keep them there until they're needed and move them to Morse Road after the election," Walch added.
The new location, which had served as an early voting center for the 2012 general election, has a lot going for it, Anthony said.
"For a lot of people, it will be a lot easier to get to," he said. "Morse Road is a main highway that everyone can identify with in Franklin County."
The renovations "went smoo-thly" to what was once a department store that had a "pretty open area," Anthony said.
"We just came in and laid out how we wanted it to look like from our standpoint," he said. "It was like a blank canvas, so it's worked out pretty well for us.We think there is a cost-saving here."
Hanna Greer-Brown, director of public affairs for the Franklin County commissioners, said the county has entered a three-year lease with the option to purchase the property at the end of that time for $6 million.
"The lease agreement stipulates the base rent for years 1-3 at $5.08 a square foot," she wrote in an email. That comes to $457,200 a year.
"Tenant improvements and soft costs equal $6 million," Greer-Brown added.
Relocating the elections board will make space available in Memorial Hall for the offices of the Veterans Service Commission, which is being displaced by the planned demolition of Veterans Memorial on West Broad Street.