The nearly abandoned Outdoor Education Center soon might become a gathering place for the schools and the community.

The nearly abandoned Outdoor Education Center soon might become a gathering place for the schools and the community.

The Worthington City Schools and several community organizations are working together to renovate the one-story building on the banks of the Olentangy River, just north of West Granville Road.

Built in the early 1960s as a shelter house for the district, it was used in its early days by classes studying outdoor-related subjects. In recent years, it has been unused, except as a storage site for the schools.

Plans approved by the Worthington Architectural Review Board on April 25 show the building being returned to an updated and improved version of its original state.

All wood framing added over the years would be removed; interior and exterior masonry would be restored; the roof would be replaced; and elements of the hydronic heating and cooling system would be replaced.

New glass overhead doors would be added; the restroom facilities would be enlarged and made handicapped accessible; the kitchen would be renovated; audio-visual and technology systems and offices would be installed; and the gas-burning fireplace would be repurposed with gas logs.

The large gathering room would retain the overhead beams, wood roof decking and raised lectern at one end.

The ARB unanimously approved the plans presented by architect Peter Macrae.

"This is going to be great for the city," ARB member Kathy Holcombe said.

The district would pay for half of the $300,000 renovation costs. The rest would be raised by the community, Macrae said.

The building again would provide outdoor education opportunities for the schools and the community, Macrae said.

It also would be open to families, runners and cyclists using the Olentangy Bikeway and attending sporting events on the fields at the flats. Restrooms would be open even when the rest of the building is closed.

Lighting and an alarm system would be installed for security.

The space also could be used for city events, like the gathering on Independence Day, and for neighborhood, alumni and family get-togethers.

Athletics teams are expected to use the building for meetings and banquets, and Worthington Youth Boosters could use it for meetings, restroom and drink station during games and as shelter during inclement weather.

Even a 200-person wedding could be held there, Macrae said.

"The inside is going to be beautiful," he said.

The schools would maintain the facility, with some help expected to come from the local service clubs that are supporting the renovations, Macrae said.

Completion is expected in fall 2014.