Trotter Convention Center Director Mike Anderson shows off the main meeting area of the newly renovated Regal Hall. The former home of Regal Cleaners is now a city-owned event space available for rent that can accommodate up to 99 guests. Photo by: Zack Plair/Dispatch Staff
Workers with B&G Masonry lay bricks Thursday for a wall on the north side of Trotter Convention Center in downtown Columbus. The four-foot wall will complement fabricated metal arches in the style of what encloses the Trotter's east side courtyard.
Photo by: Zack Plair/Dispatch Staff
Mike Anderson walks through the updated kitchen, complete with stainless steel appliances, at Regal Hall on Thursday. The city paid $76,000 for the building and spent another $35,000 to renovate it into a meeting space.
Photo by: Zack Plair/Dispatch Staff
October 20, 2018 9:59:12 PM
Walking through the old Regal Cleaners building on Fourth Street North, Trotter Convention Center Director Mike Anderson doted on the changes.
New stainless steel appliances in the kitchen. Ceramic tile flooring throughout the facility. Updated restrooms. New tables, chairs and an ice caddy.
"We really dressed it up nice," Anderson said while showing off the property on Thursday. "It's turned into a pretty little place."
Columbus purchased the old Regal Cleaners in January 2016, though the only real evidence of that on the building's otherwise nondescript exterior is the requisite dedication plaque by the front door etched with the names of the mayor and city councilmen.
But the city's more than $35,000 investment to gussy up the interior has transformed the former dry cleaner business into Regal Hall -- the Trotter's newest event space now available for rent.
Located around the corner to the west of the main convention center, Regal Hall has capacity for 99 guests. Anderson said the standard rental fee is $500 per event, plus a $100 cleaning fee, and the maximum reservation length is 8 a.m.-1 a.m. (17 hours).
"It's really geared toward parties and business meetings," Anderson said. "It's ideal for a bridal shower, a small wedding, a birthday party or even a graduation party."
The city paid $76,000 for the building, purchasing it from the S.H. Livingston family -- which had bought it from L.S. Cox, the owner of Regal Cleaners, in 1998. After the city took control, it briefly leased the facility to a massage therapy business. After that business left, interior renovations for Regal Hall began.
Though Anderson said Regal Hall has been available to rent for about six weeks, the first official event there will come Tuesday with the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau's Tourism Partners monthly meeting.
The Trotter's main facility that fronts Fifth Street includes larger meeting spaces on two levels that host everything from weddings, concerts and corporate parties to the annual Golden Triangle Comic Con. Anderson said Regal Hall gives the Trotter options to rent to groups needing a smaller space, but he believes finding a long-term commercial tenant, particularly an event planner, could ultimately be Regal Hall's best use.
"Ideally, from my perspective, getting something like a wedding coordinator in here would be a great fit," he said. "It would be like having a shoe store next to a dress shop. They would bring business to the Trotter, and we would bring business to them."
Mayor Robert Smith told The Dispatch he is open to a long-term lease arrangement for Regal Hall if the right tenant comes along.
"I'm interested in whatever works that gets the city revenue," Smith said.
New wall at Trotter
Regal Hall isn't the only addition poised to expand the Trotter's operations.
Last week, workers with B&G Masonry began laying bricks for a wall on the north side of the main convention center that Anderson said will create more event-booking options.
The wall will mimic the style of the east side courtyard, with four-foot high brick work flanking fabricated metal arches, most of which will include gates.
Columbus paid $46,000 total for the project, which Anderson said should be complete by Nov. 1.
Once finished, the wall will surround an outdoor stage and patio area Anderson said could comfortably accommodate as many as 300 guests -- a space ideal for weddings and other parties.
Even when that patio space isn't hosting an event, Anderson said it could still serve an important purpose.
"You've got to have a place for smokers to go," he said. "If you don't they'll find their own place."
Smith, speaking with The Dispatch, lauded the Trotter's overall return on investment, especially in the nearly four years since a major $2 million renovation there.
Even these smaller investments, he said, can make a big difference over time.
"The Trotter is a moneymaker," he said. "There's no doubt about that."
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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