Worthington News

Survey: Residents' preference for UMCH site is parklike setting

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Imagine the United Methodist Children's Home site as a vast green space with fountains, gardens, playgrounds and a small amphitheater.

If there were one or more buildings, they would be a small, locally owned grocery, some patio homes, a family restaurant or medical offices.

What one would not see is a high-rise apartment building, a fast-food restaurant, a gas station with a grocery, a store open 24 hours a day or a drive-through pharmacy that sells food.

Those are the preferences of 805 people who responded to a survey sponsored by Worthington Alliance for Responsible Development, known as WARD, a grassroots group attempting to represent the opinions and concerns of residents in the development of the United Methodist Children's Home site, which is 40 acres of prime real estate for sale at 1033 High St.

The group was formed last September after Frank Kass of Continental Real Estate announced a proposal to build a Giant Eagle on the land. The response during a public meeting was overwhelmingly negative, spurring the formation of the organization, which quickly attracted more than 100 members.

The survey results, presented during a WARD meeting March 19, are expected to give the WARD leaders a better understanding of community desires and concerns as they attempt to get involved in the development process.

"We're trying to represent the community as best we can," said Fred Yaeger, a member of the WARD planning group.

The surveys were available online and on paper from Feb. 26 to March 7. Online, 736 responded; 69 replied on paper; 758 live in the city.

Approximately 60 residents attended the meeting at the Griswold Center. Several WARD members and land-use planners also spoke to the group.

Education is another aim of WARD, Yaeger said. People need to understand the processes involved in city development if they are to have an impact, he said.

He was not surprised, he said, that so many respondents would like to see the UMCH land remain green, with fountains, gardens and an amphitheater.

Realistically, he said, he also understands that such uses would not generate revenue for the city.

He was surprised, he said, that 58 percent of respondents would support a bond issue to raise money to pay for such uses.

Respondents also said that, given a choice of grocery stores, they would support most a locally owned small store (68 percent) or a small chain (33 percent).

Seventy-five percent or more would not support a drive-through pharmacy, a store open 24 hours a day or a gas-station-affiliated store.

If offices were built on the site, respondents would prefer medical offices or services, with a 51-percent approval, over professional offices (42 percent), adult day care (45 percent) or private education facility (40 percent).

Of possible residential uses on the site, patio homes were the most popular idea, with 49 percent saying they would support them. Single-family homes and empty-nest apartments were next, both with 47 percent approval ratings.

Dense two-story apartments were approved by 25 percent; one- or two-story apartments, 22 percent; three- or four-story apartments, 9 percent; and taller apartments, 3 percent.

Seventy-five percent or more of respondents said they favor green space, fountains/gardens, playground/community gardens or a small amphitheater. Only 57 percent favor sports fields.

The most popular restaurant type for the site would be casual/family, favored by 59 percent; deli, 55 percent; fine dining, 51 percent; ethnic, 50 percent; and fast food, 5 percent.

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