The city has hired a design firm to help plan for the development of the United Methodist Children's Home (UMCH) site.

The city has hired a design firm to help plan for the development of the United Methodist Children's Home (UMCH) site.

A team from Columbus-based urban-planning firm MKSK, led by former Municipal Planning Commission member Chris Hermann, will update the 2005 Comprehensive Plan recommendations for the 40-acre site, incorporating the opinions of residents, the city and UMCH owners.

Located directly across the street from the Municipal Building, the mostly unused site is for sale. How it its developed will have a major impact on the city, according to City Manager Matt Greeson.

"The property is critical to the future of Worthington," he said. "There is opportunity for significant development there."

A year ago, developers presented a plan to build a Giant Eagle on the site. Residents strongly objected to the proposal, which eventually was withdrawn.

A group of residents then formed an organization dedicated to monitoring and influencing any plans to develop the site, which is not only on High Street but also backs up to the Worthington Estates subdivision.

Greeson acknowledged that a municipality taking such a proactive approach to planning for the development of private property is unusual, but he said he believes that is what the Worthington residents expect in this case.

"If we're going to do any planning, this is the time," he said.

MKSK will review the 2005 Comprehensive Plan, which it wrote. It will consider various uses and designs for the property, get input from residents, the city and the property owners and develop several possible plans that would be considered optimal for the site.

Developers also will be asked for their input on what would be feasible.

"Our hope is that this will be a win-win-win for everyone," Hermann said.

Six months is the goal for completing the project, which will result in an updated Comprehensive Plan, which must be approved by City Council, with input from the Municipal Planning Commission.

"UMCH will participate. They probably want it to happen sooner rather than later," Greeson said.

Besides engaging the public in meetings, proposals will be posted online, with input into the process accepted electronically. Residents who typically don't attend public meetings could get involved that way, Greeson said.

"We're excited about that part of the project," he said.