Worthington News

WARD: Scenarios for UMCH site's future 'seriously flawed'

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Each of the consultant's conceptual plans for the development of the United Methodist Children's Home site is "seriously flawed," according to WARD.

WARD, which stands for Worthington Alliance for Responsible Development, has issued a statement objecting to all five scenarios presented by MKSK, the firm hired by the city to develop possible plans for the 41 acres of prime Worthington real estate.

The citizens group, with more than 200 members, was formed in September 2012 to make sure residents have a voice in planning for the redevelopment of the former children's home site, which is for sale and sits along High Street, across from the Worthington Municipal Building and fire station.

At that time, residents objected strongly to a proposal to build a Giant Eagle there. That proposal was withdrawn.

Since then, the group has continued to meet, research the issues related to the redevelopment and do a survey of residents.

The city hired MKSK planner Chris Hermann last year to develop scenarios for redevelopment of the land.

Eventually, his work is to result in an update to the city's comprehensive plan, which guides developers working in the city.

His five scenarios were presented to the community during a meeting in December and are on the city's website, which is accepting comments through Feb. 18. A new set of questions is being devised and will replace the questions currently on the website, according to city spokeswoman Anne Brown.

City officials are trying to schedule another public meeting for March, she said.

WARD's objections center around creativity, green space, traffic, housing density and office space. Four of the five scenarios essentially are the same, according to the WARD press release. Each comprises commercial uses along High Street, with townhomes and apartments on the rest of the land.

The plans are too similar to each other, and they are too similar to other developments in central Ohio, according to the statement.

"Where are the conceptually unique, out-of-the-box land uses that would help to make UMCH a special place, enhance the character and attractiveness of our community and still be appealing for decades to come?" the group asked in its press release.

The plans also do not take into account the housing needs of older residents, who do not want to live in two- or three-story townhomes, the group's press release stated.

Other objections noted are as follows:

• The lack of a performance space or other community gathering space, as was strongly preferred in WARD's community survey.

• Too much ingress/egress onto nearby residential streets, which substantially would increase volumes of traffic into the neighborhood of single-family homes.

• Too much housing density, which varies from 65 units to 465 units, mostly townhomes and flats. The plan with 400 units of flats drew the most skepticism from WARD members, according to the statement.

• Too much office space in scenario 5, which shows 540,000 square feet of offices. The statement questions the need for so much office space, considering the vacancy rate in Worthington.

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