Worthington News

City leaders praise Fresh Thyme plans

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This artist's rendering, looking southwest from High Street, shows the proposed Fresh Thyme Farmers Market.

The first taste of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market was a pleasant one.

Except for questions about the absence of a front entrance and some concerns about buffering and traffic, the Municipal Planning Commission/Architectural Review Board and neighbors seemed pleased with the plans for the new grocery store, as presented during the April 24 meeting.

"We have miles to go, but we are going to get there,"MPC member Mikel Coulter said at the end of the first presentation of the plans for the 30,000-square-foot store proposed for 933 High St.

He and other MPC/ARB member said they have heard nothing but positive responses to plans to build the grocery near the center of Worthington, which has been without a grocery for several years.

"It is very exciting you are coming to Worthington," Coulter said. "I haven't heard anyone say they don't want you."

Fresh Thyme is a new chain of stores featuring healthy and organic foods. The first one opened in April in Illinois, and plans call for 60 more to be built across the Midwest in the next five years.

Central Ohio's first will be on Sawmill Road in the former Borders bookstore site.

The one in central Worthington will be built on the site of the two-story blue office building at 933 High St. The site was built in the early 1970s and is partially vacant.

The one-story brick grocery will be on the southeast side of the lot, about 50 feet from High Street. It will appear to be two stories tall, with the second-story facade hiding rooftop mechanicals.

The vehicle entrance/exit will be on the north side of the building. At the request of city planners, the drive was placed as far as possible from the intersection of North and High streets.

All parking will be in the rear, as will be the only pedestrian entrance to the store.

It will have a seating area in front of the store but no way to get into the store except to walk along the north or south side. Walkways will be provided.

Several MPC/ARB members objected to the absence of a High Street entrance, with Fresh Thyme representatives saying a front door is not possible because of the interior layout of the grocery store.

Not only will it be difficult to bring food and drinks to enjoy on the front patio from the rear entrance, but many residents might walk to the store and want to enter from High Street, members said.

Commission member James Sauer suggested that Fresh Thyme consider selling flowers from the front of the store, much the way Jubilee Foods once filled its lot with flowers and plants.

"It is something else you can sell and sell a lot of," Sauer said.

Owners of abutting residential properties already had met with the Fresh Thyme representatives, and few concerns were expressed at the meeting.

The stockade-style fence that currently buffers the properties on West North Street will be replaced.

Two residents from homes on the north and west sides of the property spoke during the meeting, wanting to make sure their properties also are well-screened.

It is estimated that 10,000 vehicles a week would enter and exit the store parking lot. That figure has some nearby residents concerned about possible traffic jams on High Street.

Mary Damsel, who lives in Tollgate Square, across the street from the proposed store, urged the city to make sure emergency vehicles would be able to have clear passage.

"It frightens me that we're not considering the safety factor," she said.

No action was requested at the meeting.

A rezoning from C-3 to PUD and architectural approval would be needed before construction may begin.

The expected completion date is spring 2015.

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