Worthington News

UMCH site

City leaders envision mixed-use options

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Worthington city officials' vision for the redeveloped United Methodist Children's Home property probably will include a mixture of offices, shops, restaurants, apartments, town houses and single-family homes.

Four scenarios presented during a Dec. 4 public forum each included all of those uses, with office and retail uses along High Street and various layouts of apartment buildings and other housing options behind the commercial uses.

Chris Hermann and Darren Meyer, representing the consulting firm, MKSK, presented the possible uses for the 41 acres of prime land along North High Street, across from the Worthington Municipal Building.

MKSK was hired by the city to lead the UMCH visioning project, which will result in an update to the city's comprehensive plan, a document that serves as a guide to developers and city decision-makers as they plan for the city's future.

The UMCH land is for sale. The city decided to take a proactive stance toward its redevelopment after residents objected to a proposal to build a Giant Eagle there in September 2012. That proposal later was withdrawn.

The city doesn't have the authority to dictate how the land is used. It is, however, allowed to work with a proposal brought forward by a potential developer.

One or more scenarios developed from the ones presented last week will serve only as a starting point for any redevelopment. The scenarios will be adjusted according to comments from the nearly 150 people who attended and from any additional ideas posted on the website at ww.

MKSK will make its final recommendation for a comprehensive-plan update to the city in February, and approval is expected in March.

In making its recommendations, the consultant will try to balance the needs of the community, market demands and city finances, Hermann told the crowd at the meeting held in the library at Thomas Worthington High School.

Today's market supports what he called "the importance of place," which requires walkability, community gathering spaces and a mix of different types of housing and places to work.

Financially, the city benefits most from office and industrial uses, whereas retail and housing usually are considered a drain on the city's tax base.

Currently, 87 percent of the city's housing is single-family. The types shown on the proposed scenarios are three-story apartment buildings with one-floor flats, two-story, attached townhomes and two-and-a-half-story homes built on small lots, or what planners call zero-lot-line homes. Such homes have one boundary wall on the property line.

Each scenario also showed a handful of traditional, single-family homes along Longfellow Avenue, on the far north end of the property.

The consultants recommend high-quality office uses.

Retail likely would be restaurants, which would be gathering spots for residents of the development, consultants said.

"This site could be anything; it could be a million things," Hermann said. "A mix is probably the right use."

Each scenario includes some green space, though none includes large green areas such as an outdoor performing area, as some residents had recommended in surveys and at previous meetings.

Worthington already has nice parks and recreation facilities and more green space than most cities, Hermann said.

"You could do it, but it is not a critical need," he said.

The crowd was dispersed to view and write comments about the four scenarios.

The first scenario includes a town green along High Street, with office and retail uses north and south.

Three-story, "flats-type" apartments would be along the south end, with townhomes in the center and zero-lot-line homes nearest the Worthington Estates residential area to the west.

All of the scenarios include access to Evening Street, along the curve between Greenbriar Court and Highgate Avenue.

Scenario 2 includes office and retail along High Street, three-story apartments to the west and green space surrounded by town houses in the center, with an outer ring of the zero-lot-line single-family homes.

Scenario 3 includes office and retail along High Street, three-story apartment buildings arranged around green space in the center and zero-lot-line homes on the perimeter.

Scenario 4 is similar to scenario 3, except with town houses surrounding the central green space.