As the group of Worthington city officials stood near the center of Easton Town Center, they could see what works.

As the group of Worthington city officials stood near the center of Easton Town Center, they could see what works.

People sitting outside.

Glorious flowers in huge pots.

A small scale train.

A fountain.

Twinkling lights.

And, of course, stores, each with a different facade.

The 10 city leaders toured the popular shopping center on Monday with Tom Carter, one of the developers of Easton who hopes to bring some of its design elements and its success to Worthington Square.

Carter is a Worthington resident who has helped develop and redevelop shopping centers all over the country. He and partners from Morris Capital Partners from Texas are in the process of buying the downtrodden Worthington mall.

Carter has plans to make it great. Not just like Easton, which attracts 20 million people a year, but a center that is alive, vibrant, and busy.

He needs the cooperation of city leaders, who saw the elements of success through his eyes as they toured Easton on Monday.

"Worthington Square isn't going to be Easton, but there are pieces and parts that make this work well that will make Worthington Square work better," Carter told the entourage.

Plans for Worthington Square are still provisional, but will probably include tearing down part of the roof to make it more of an indoor-outdoor venue, with lots of outdoor seating and places to gather.

"The best architecture is the umbrellas, plants and people sitting outside," he said.

When people drive down High Street, he wants them to be drawn to the lights and the activity, as well as the stores.

He knows the difference between inviting and garish, he said.

"We don't want it to look like a county fair, but we want it to be active," Carter said.

The building itself should be nice, but not dominant.

And the days of expecting all stores to look alike are over.

Officials took time to see that almost all of the Easton stores have their own identities. The wide white expanse of Crate and Barrel works well next to the yellow, highly-stylized Cheesecake Factory, for instance.

Architectural Review Board/Municipal Planning Commission chairman Richard Hunter said he believes the city is more than ready to work with that kind of mixed features within the mall. Already, the board and commission have encouraged other shopping centers to incorporate different colors and styles of shops.

There may be a retailer who wants to go too far, and that is when the mall ownership and the city must work together to encourage cooperation, Carter said.

"We may have to be the good guy, you the bad guy, or vice versa," he told the city leaders.

He expects the sale to be final in December, with plans to be forthcoming soon after.

M + A, formerly Meacham and Apel, has been hired as the architect for the project. Architect Lori Bongiorno has worked with Carter on other projects, including Easton, and shares his optimism about the eventual success of Worthington Square.

"We've got the team and we've done this before," Carter said.