The Columbus Visitors Bureau, doing business as VisitColumbusGa, plans to move from 900 Front Ave. and open its new headquarters Sept. 6 in the former YMCA at 118 11th St. They will be the second tenant in the historic downtown Columbus building after its multimillion-dollar renovation.
VisitColumbusGa president and CEO Peter Bowden confirmed the news to the Ledger-Enquirer.
The visitors bureau will join the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce in the former YMCA building. The L-E reported three months ago the chamber would open its new headquarters there in July, moving from a former train depot at 1200 Sixth Ave. TOP VIDEOS Top Videos Photo Gallery: Spotted at the Northsidevs. Columbus football game ×
WHY VISITCOLUMBUSGA IS MOVING
The internet has changed the way folks use visitor bureaus, Bowden said. Instead of needing to stop by an office to pick up brochures and chat with an expert about what to see and do in the local area, tourists can get that information on their smartphones.
For example, the VisitColumbusGa headquarters averaged approximately 3,000 visitors per month in 2019. Now, it averages approximately 3,500 per year.
Meanwhile, the bureau’s traffic on VisitColumbusGa.com has grown from 2020 to 2022 in users (125,297 to 163,068), sessions (149,766 to 191,584) and page views (296,741 to 341,431).
So after losing three staff members (one retired, one left for another opportunity and one part-time employee was laid off) during the COVID-19 pandemic, VisitColumbusGa realized it didn’t need the roughly 8,000 square feet it occupies in the Dillingham Place, also known as the former home of the Sol Loeb Company.
VisitColumbusGa has been renting the space from Columbus State University Foundation Properties for $10,020 per month. At the former YMCA building, VisitColumbusGa will pay $7,269 per month to rent approximately 3,300 square feet from W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate, Bowden said.
Add in utilities and VisitColumbusGa expects the move to save at least $35,000 per year out of an annual budget of $1.8 million, Bowden said.
Those savings could help pay for increasing the staff as needed and the new pop-up visitors center it launched in February. The van enables VisitColumbusGa to bring its resources to the airport, hotels and events such as conferences and graduations, wherever large groups of visitors are scheduled to gather, Bowden said.
OTHER BENEFITS OF MOVING INTO THE FORMER YMCA
Having the chamber as a fellow tenant creates a dynamic synergy for both organizations focused on economic development.
“The chamber does one piece of it; we do another piece of it,” Bowden said.
“This allows us to truly be a one-stop shop. If someone is looking to relocate a business or some kind of bricks-and-mortar side of economic development, we can walk downstairs and say, ‘Here’s a lead for you.’ Likewise, if people are looking for visitor information or an experience or looking to bring a conference here, they can pass it off to us, and we can kind of double-team it and really give a better face forward to those people looking at Columbus to do business in.”
Chamber president and CEO Jerald Mitchell agrees.
“The Columbus Chamber and Visit Columbus are longtime partners and closer physical proximity will surely strengthen that partnership,” Mitchell wrote in an email to the L-E. “Goals of both organizations are intended to drive better area economic development and we’re excited to see that enhanced.”
All of which will enhance the visitor experience, Bowden said.
“As far as the business component, corporate and convention planners, the co-location with the chamber of commerce gives us a really strong presence — almost a laser beam on how we can do economic development the best way possible,” he said.
W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate’s renovation of the former YMCA helps VisitColumbusGa give its customers “the best first impression possible,” Bowden said. “So when they walk in, they know they are dealing with professionals in a top organization.”
VisitColumbusGa will be on the top floor of the three-floor, 23,000-square-feet building; the chamber occupies the entire second floor, approximately 6,500 square feet.
That leaves approximately 5,000 square feet available on the first floor, which can be split into distinct spaces of 1,300 and 3,700 square feet, W.C. Bradley Co. Real Estate Division President Pace Halter told the L-E in an email. Three prospective tenants are considering the remaining space, he said, “but nothing we are ready to announce.”
The renovation of the 119-year-old building also transformed the basement into a common area, break room, restrooms, showers and conference room.
No tenant is scheduled to replace VisitColumbusGa in Dillingham Place, CSU Communications Director Greg Hudgison told the L-E. The 139-year-old building is 14,848 square feet.