Worthington News

Fresh Thyme won't have front entrance facing High Street

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The new Fresh Thyme Farmers Market grocery store will have neither a real nor a fake front entrance.

Though designers and city staff members worked for hours trying to find a way to put an entrance on the front of the grocery store, planned for 933 High St., the lot size and shape and the city's desire to have the building close to High Street made it impossible, city planning coordinator Lynda Bitar said.

"This is a very unique site, and it is impossible to have a front entrance," she said during the May 22 meeting of the Municipal Planning Commission.

The door decision and a few decisions regarding landscaping and lighting were made at the meeting, which was the second of what probably will be many hearings on the rezoning and architectural review of the proposed development.

Residents of Tollgate Square also attended to make clear their concerns about safety, traffic and drainage problems that could result from the grocery store.

The proposal calls for demolishing the two blue office buildings on the site, which is next the Sprint Lube at North and High streets.

InSite Real Estate of Oak Brook, Ill., wants to build on the site a 30,000-square-foot grocery store that specializes in healthy foods. Fresh Thyme is a new chain of stores, the first of which opened last month near Chicago. The Worthington store will be one of the first in central Ohio.

If all goes as planned, the store will open next spring.

First, the plans must go through MPC and the Architectural Review Board and be approved by Worthington City Council.

The rezoning will be a planned-unit development, which allows the city to attach specific requirements to a zoning approval.

The brick store building will be one story, with a second-story facade. It will be built about 50 feet from High Street, with parking in the rear. Vehicles will enter and exit along the north side of the building.

Though city planning documents call for the area to be pedestrian-friendly, a front door will not fit on the site, Bitar said.

Originally, plans showed a front with what appeared to be a door, with seating on each side of the fake door. At this point in the planning process, the seating remains, but the fake door has been removed.

"If there isn't a door, I don't want it to look as if there's a door," ARB member Jo Rodgers said.

Since the April meeting, when the plans were introduced, more changes were made to the front architecture to make it look more like other buildings in Worthington.

A proposed water table was removed. Instead, the front will be all brick. Other changes could be forthcoming, Bitar said.

"It can be tweaked more to fit in," she said.

Also new in the plans is a 9-foot fence separating the lot from the properties to the north, as well as a lighting plan that requires no spillover onto any neighboring properties.

Also, the drive on the north side of the building will require a variance to make it wide enough for three lanes. One lane will be for entering vehicles, one for those exiting to the north and another for those exiting to the south.

The lot will provide parking for 111 vehicles.

According to a memo from the city's zoning staff, the lot will have stacking room for a dozen cars waiting to exit the site and stacking room for at least six cars to turn left onto the site.

"With High Street being five lanes, ample room is available for emergency vehicles to travel along the road," the memo states. "Emergency vehicles should also be able to navigate through the parking lot."

Several residents of Tollgate Square say they don't agree with that statement and warned that safety would be sacrificed if the development is permitted as planned.

Mary Damsel said she fears that large delivery trucks trying to turn into the lot would back up traffic on High Street and make it impossible for emergency vehicles to get through.

"I really hope you give consideration to the safety problem," she said.

Tollgate residents also expressed concerns about aesthetics, storm sewers, rodents that would be displaced during construction and trash that might pile up in front of the building.

Though developers met with owners of abutting properties, the neighbors in Tollgate Square were not included, according to attorney Julie Perkins, who represents the condominium association.

Attorney Jeff Brown, representing the developers, offered to set up a meeting with the condominium owners.

A recommendation that the speed limit be changed to 25 mph from North Street to Worthington-Galena Road also will be presented to council, said Scott Myers, who is council's representative to the MPC.

Currently, the 25-mph limit stretches from North to South streets only.

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