Not what Worthington had in mind
Giant Eagle rumored for former UMCH site on High St.
A Giant Eagle store soon could fill the void at the United Methodist Children's Home (UMCH) site.
Neither UMCH nor Continental Real Estate representatives would confirm nor deny rumors of plans to redevelop the 41 acres at 1033 High St.with a supermarket and housing, but Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson said he believes a Giant Eagle is the proposal that would be presented to residents at a meeting set for Sept. 18.
"I suspect this is their way to build support or test support," he said.
UMCH has invited neighbors to a meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Worthington United Methodist Church, 600 High St. The invitation states that UMCH is in contract with Continental to develop the property and wants to present the plans to the community.
UMCH closed its residential facility for troubled youth in December 2010. The land, which Greeson calls Worthington's "largest and last opportunity for significant development," has been for sale for nearly a year.
When asked about local social-media discussions of Giant Eagle plans for the site, Greeson said he believes that is what the developers have in mind.
Neither UMCH nor Continental has been in touch with the city in recent weeks, and neither has informed the city about what is being proposed for the site.
"No plans have been submitted," Greeson said.
The Giant Eagle plans were discussed several months ago during a series of meetings involving the property owner, the developer and city leaders. The purpose of the meetings was to take an informal look at how the land best could be developed.
One proposal was to build a Giant Eagle on the front of the land, with apartments and senior housing on the back. The commercial development would include outparcels and a gas station.
City leaders made it clear that such a plan is not what they had in mind, Greeson said.
"Our feedback was, we didn't think it met with the long-term plans of the community, as reflected in the comprehensive plan," he said.
Rezoning would be necessary before a supermarket or housing could be built on the land.
The property primarily is zoned S-1, which is land set aside for schools, churches and other institutions. Two strips of the property along High Street are zoned C-2 (community shopping center) and C-3 (institutions and offices). Neither of the strips is large enough for a supermarket.
The strip zoning occurred years ago, when UMCH leaders had proposed building small businesses along High Street. The intent was to lease the businesses to support the children's home.
The plans eventually were dropped, but the zoning remains.
A request to rezone the land first would go before the Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), which would send its recommendation to City Council, which makes final zoning decisions.
In making zoning decisions, such issues as compatibility of land use, impact on utilities and traffic are considered.
The public would be permitted to testify before both bodies.
The city's comprehensive plan, which was updated in 2005, also would be taken into consideration. Commissioned and approved by council, the plan presents a vision and guidelines for the development of the city for 15 years.
The plan calls for the UMCH land to be developed with a combination of commercial, office and residential uses, but it specifically states that such uses as supermarkets would not be in the best interest of the city.
"Large-format and strip retail centers are not encouraged or welcome," the plan states.
The plan recommends housing on the rear of the development, either in the form of cluster homes for empty-nesters or high-density urban residential, specifically built for younger, single people. Both would fill housing needs in the community, according to the plan.
The front should be two- or three-story commercial office buildings, with such uses as restaurants and small offices connecting them to the residential area; or it should be a medical campus, with a surgical hospital and related medical buildings on the front two-thirds of the land.
The comprehensive plan specifically mentions the UMCH property because of its importance to the city, Greeson said.
He said he encourages the community to become involved in the coming discussions.
"The decisions we make in the coming year will a have long-term impact on the community," he said.