City's leaders 'ecstatic' to see 270/23 work begin
To foresee 2013 in Worthington, look north to the I-270/North High Street intersection.
That is where the earth will begin to move in the summer, when construction will begin -- at last -- on the congested, dangerous entrance into the city of Worthington.
A year ago, the long-awaited interchange redesign seemed as though it were doomed to gather years of dust on shelves at the Ohio Department of Transportation. After residents, city officials and business owners objected quite strenuously to an announced 20- to 30-year project delay, ODOT found the money to move ahead.
The first phase of the project includes relocating ramps, trenching and widening U.S. Route 23 from I-270 to Flint Road and making major improvements to North High Street as far south as Wilson Bridge Road.
ODOT officials say the work likely would take two years to complete.
High Street will remain open during the work, though lanes could close temporarily.
"There will be some inconvenience, but in the end, it will be a safer, less congested interchange," Worthington City Manger Matt Greeson said. "We're ecstatic that is moving forward."
Greeson said he also expects 2013 to bring more discussion, if not movement, on the redevelopment of the United Methodist Children's Home site.
He said he has heard no news from the UMCH owners since residents objected to plans to build a Giant Eagle on the 39-acre site at 1033 High St., directly across from the Worthington Municipal Building.
"What happens there revolves around what they are doing and what development ideas come forward," he said.
City leaders also will watch state legislative issues closely in 2013, Greeson said. Already, Worthington is set to lose approximately $1 million a year because of decreases in the Local Government Fund revenues and the discontinuance of the estate tax.
Now legislators are discussing the uniformity of tax collections, possibly resulting in new laws that affect local revenues.
"It is hard to figure out the fiscal impact," Greeson said.
Also in 2013, the city plans to modify its planning and zoning codes to achieve some of its development goals. Specifically, a Planned Unit Development code might be written for the Wilson Bridge corridor.
"We want to make sure provisions in our code can deal with large-scale development effectively," Greeson said.
The first step in the redevelopment of Wilson Bridge Road is nearly finished, with the Shops at Worthington Place completed and almost at 100-percent occupancy.
Piada restaurant should be ready to open in the spring or summer, and developers hope to break ground on apartments west and north of the mall in 2013. Plans for the former James Tavern site also are being developed.
With tax-increment-financing money from the apartments and James Tavern developments, plus a $150,000 grant from the state, the city plans to build a bicycle path from the Olentangy Parklands to the mall, and leaders are looking into other improvements to the corridor.
As a result of the mall development, more growth along Wilson Bridge Road is anticipated, Greeson said.
"It is great," he said of the mall and the rest of the plans along the city's north side.
Plans for pedestrian and bicycle access throughout the city also are expected in 2013, he said, as will the reorganization of several city departments to reflect the retirements of many leaders and employees.
The service and engineering departments will be tops among those undergoing change.
With the retirement of service director Dave Groth, longtime city engineer Bill Watterson will take over as director of service and engineering.
To place more emphasis on planning, a new position of planning and development manager has been created. For the first four months of the year, retired assistant city manager Paul Feldman will hold that position.
Changes also are expected in the fire and police departments, with the retirements of several key staff.
Other plans for 2013 include more emphasis on economic development marketing, a new all-children's playground (with features designed for those with physical challenges) at the Worthington Community Center, an expansion of the dog park at Godown Park and more corporate memberships at the community center.