When the city purchased the 752 building in 2006, the purpose was to make sure it was never used as a store, restaurant or private office building.

When the city purchased the 752 building in 2006, the purpose was to make sure it was never used as a store, restaurant or private office building.

That has changed.

The Municipal Planning Commission last week voted unanimously to recommend that the building on the northeast quadrant of the Village Green be zoned C-5.

That is the zoning category of the shops, restaurants and offices in downtown Worthington.

If Worthington City Council agrees with the recommendation, the historic brick building could become a cafe, a bookstore, a farmers market, an attorney's office, even a theater.

More than likely, it would become a combination of uses.

There is some safety that the building will not be used as something unattractive or unwanted, though, since the city owns the building and thus has control over who leases the space.

The choice of the flexible, C-5 zoning came after little more than an hour of testimony at last Thursday's public forum.

Such forums have been held periodically over the past eight years, which was when the Worthington schools moved its administrative offices from the building, which is also known as the James Kilbourne Memorial Library.

For most of the intervening years, focus was on finding a public use for the building. Only in the past two years did it become clear that there was no such use for the building.

Council member Mike Duffey, who was one of the first officials to publicly favor opening up possibilities to private and retail uses, said he was pleased at the end of the Feb. 19 meeting.

"We've come a long way as a community," he said.

Representatives of the Old Worthington Association (OWA) and the Olde Worthington Business Association testified that their organizations favored a C-5 zoning category.

Permitted C-5 uses include retail sales; personal or business services; specialty goods; arts and crafts; financial services; public, semi-public, social, essential and accessory uses.

Conditional uses include drive-ins; recreational facilities; printing and publishing; public service; entertainment facilities; theaters; and off-street parking.

MPC must approve conditional uses.

Jim Ventresca of the OWA said the 1927 building has a rich history, but that the city must be open-minded about future uses.

"The primary concern is to get this building occupied," he said.

Sue Whitaker of the Worthington Historical Society said that organization would be interested in operating a small museum in a portion of the space, but could not occupy the entire building.

MPC member Chris Hermann said the purpose of the rezoning was to stop discouraging potential developers. With the building zoned S-1, for a very limited number of special uses, developers were walking away instead of dealing with the hassles that often accompany rezoning.

If council agrees to the C-5 rezoning, the issue will return to the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC). The CIC would work on a marketing plan, with the hopes of attracting businesses interested in occupying the building.

cbrooks@thisweeknews.com