Former Columbus Maennerchor building's metamorphosis into Good Haus 'amazing'

GARY SEMAN JR.
gseman@thisweeknews.com
Katharine Moore, executive director of the Jefferson Avenue Center, and Denver Boling, superintendent of Lehman Daman Construction Services, stand in front of the Good Haus, 966 S. High St. in the Brewery District. The Good Haus, which takes over the former Maennerchor building, will be a new hub for nonprofits operating under the auspices of the Jefferson Avenue Center. The building's renovation is scheduled for completion Sept. 15 and is set to welcome tenants Oct. 1. Lehman Daman is the general contractor.

When Denver Boling walked into the old Columbus Maennerchor building, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"My first thought was, I could tear it down and make (a new building) look old," said Boling, superintendent of Lehman Daman Construction Services. "It was pretty well destroyed when we got in there."

But instead, after 16 months of construction, the former headquarters of the oldest German singing society, 966 S. High St. in the Brewery District, has a new face and a bright future, according to the people involved with its renovation.

In about a month, the 10,000-square-foot Maennerchor property and an 1,800-square-foot addition will open as the Good Haus, an extension of the Jefferson Avenue Center, a nonprofit in downtown Columbus.

The Jefferson Avenue Center's headquarters will remain at 65 Jefferson Ave.

Construction of the Good Haus is expected to be complete by Sept. 15 and it is set to welcome tenants Oct. 1.

The shell of the building is finished, and construction crews are in the midst of adding the infrastructure, Boling said.

"Oh my gosh, it's amazing," said Katharine Moore, executive director of the Jefferson Avenue Center, said of the Maennerchor's transformation. "It's had every challenge a historic building could have."

Moore said she has lined up four nonprofit tenants who will pay $15 per square foot to be on the bus line, close to downtown and in a dynamic neighborhood. There's room for a fifth tenant; Moore said she's confident she'll have someone on board soon.

The four-story building will feature an expansive lobby in the addition, a conference center off South High Street and glass walkways connecting the second and third floors from the elevator and stairwell, and from High Street and the parking lot into the lobby.

Vacated 10 years ago after the Columbus Maennerchor moved next door, the building has sat empty since then, succumbing to the elements.

The property was targeted by investors, the most recent of which proposed an 18-unit condominium complex; that plan was rejected by the Brewery District Commission.

Moore said the building, believed to have been built around 1888, was on the Columbus Landmarks Foundation's list of most endangered buildings.

Things were looking bleak before two local philanthropists, who wish to remain anonymous, purchased the property in 2019 from Columbus City Schools and handed over control to the Jefferson Avenue Center, asking nothing in return, Moore said. The gift will be valued at $5 million upon completion, she said.

Moore credits Mode Architects; Carl Jennings, the owners' representative who assisted in overseeing the work; and general contractor Lehman Daman for their efforts in getting the building up to modern standards.

"We've been doing this for 45 years, (and) it's the first time we've been off campus," she said, referring to the 56,000 square feet of offices on Jefferson Avenue. "So it's exciting for us."

South Side Early Learning, 280 Reeb Ave., plans to move its administrative offices to the Good Haus in October.

Robert Early, director of development and volunteerism, said moving the administrative staff of seven will free up some space for additional students.

"So what it allows us to do is have space to meet the needs of the community and expand to allow additional littles to come in," Early said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary