Worthington News

Planning for the future

Residents take tour of UMCH site


Since the beginning, the 41 acres of rolling lawn and vacant buildings has housed only children. First as an orphanage and then as a residential treatment center, the United Methodist Children's Home site has been a mecca for many youth.

Now it stands empty, its lawns seeing few soccer games, its cottages no sneakers. And it is time to move on.

How that will occur is up to developers, the city and the residents of Worthington, who had asked for and will have some voice in how the land at 1033 High St. is used over the next decades.

About 70 residents received a closeup view of the property Oct.5, and they walked the grounds and talked with city leaders about what might be there as the land is sold and developed.

City planning consultant Chris Hermann, who works for MKSK, told the group it would be several years before anything could be built on the site, but the groundwork must be laid now so a cohesive plan could be started.

His task is to come up with several scenarios, present them to residents for input and eventually update the city's comprehensive plan, which will show potential developers how the city wants the property to appear and function.

Uses could be residential, commercial, offices or green space, or some combination of those.

He said he expects the planned-urban-development concept to be used to assist both the city and developers in coming up with compromises and a long-term cohesive plan for the property.

The tour was the first step in the planning process that will provide for public input.

An interactive website is available through the city's website, Worthington.org, and a public meeting tentatively has been set for Dec. 4.

Before then, Hermann will come up with a series of black and white plans, showing various scenarios. They will show possible footprints, parking, setbacks and other details of prospective plans.

Residents who took the walking tour mostly listened and asked questions of Hermann and other city leaders, though a few suggestions were made.

One man cautioned about building apartments. Apartments are being built all over the area and might end up being empty if too many are built, he said.

Eric Gnezda, of the citizens group, Worthington Alliance for Responsible Development (WARD), reminded Hermann that the organization had done a survey to find out how residents want the land to be developed.

Hermann said those results would be considered in the visioning process.

One of the results is a desire to see green space remain on the site, Gnezda said.