A central Ohio developer plans to turn a vacant Worthington lot into 32 apartments.
The 2 acres at 181 E. Wilson Bridge Road have caught the eye of developer Don Kenney Jr. and Oxford Circle Development.
According to city planning documents, Kenney and his company want to construct two buildings containing 16 units each. Both buildings would be 2 stories tall, and all apartments would be single-story models. Each side of the two buildings would have four entrances.
The development would be called Granby Place.
Worthington's municipal-planning commission saw a preliminary plan June 28 and still will go over the project, including approval of a final plan, before it reaches Worthington City Council. The project was not on the agenda for the commission's meeting Thursday, July 12.
If the plan moves forward, Lee Brown, Worthington's planning and development director, said it would be an encouraging sign that new zoning categories for the area along Wilson Bridge Road and High Street just south of Interstate 270 have been successful.
The city introduced the zoning changes in 2016, a move meant to provide "incentive" and more options for would-be developers, Brown said at the time. The new categories included medium-density residential housing, professional office and mixed-use.
Granby Place would fall into the medium-density residential zoning category, which calls for fewer than 14 units per acre.
Brown said the project not only would fill a need in bringing more multifamily residential properties to the city, but it also would serve as an indication that the zoning changes are working.
"On our end, we're excited to see something happening on the south side of East Wilson Bridge road," he said. "This will be the first new development we have had in the corridor since the city adopted the new guidelines and zoning. So we're excited to see something happen."
Last year, City Council appropriated funds for economic-development manager David McCorkle and the Worthington Community Improvement Corp. to look into purchasing houses in the area to help jump-start development.
McCorkle said he and the CIC recommended against that plan after realizing that purchasing houses from $400,000 to $500,000, demolishing them and preparing the land for developments would cost far too much.
So although an apartment complex might not be the biggest economic driver for the city, McCorkle said, it's an encouraging sign that interest in the area is picking up.
"It's nice to see reinvestment happening on the south side of East Wilson bridge road, and it will hopefully add some residential density that is supportive of other uses in corridor," he said.
Attorney David Hodge of the Underhill and Hodge real-estate law firm is representing the developer on the project. He said he represented the previous owner of the property before Kenney purchased it.
Hodge said Kenney and Oxford Circle identified the property as being zoned for multifamily residential under the new zoning guidelines, which made it an attractive site.
"It's about the city's identification of this property as being appropriate to develop as a multifamily use," he said. "It fills what I believe the city has identified as a needed mix and type in Worthington."
Brown said the 32-unit development is within the size and scope of what planners hoped to see from projects that came out of the new zoning categories and said a smaller amount of apartments would be less intrusive to the area.
"With it being multifamily, I think the idea is maybe (32 units) instead of seeing some of the large projects come in where you start to see 30 units here and 60 units there," he said. "It collectively adds up, but it's not as in-your-face and large. I think it's an appropriate scale for Worthington."
For Hodge and the developer, the space will provide housing they believe will be in demand.
"We are delivering a use that the city of Worthington has identified as being lacking in the community and necessary to attract young professionals and empty nesters and provide housing for folks that are office employees in the Worthington community," Hodge said.
And if Granby Place goes well, Brown said, he could see it serving as a good start to reinvestment and reinvigoration in a corridor that the city has been trying to improve for years.
"It's going to hopefully set the tone for what the boards and commissions and, ultimately, City Council would like to see in that portion of the corridor," he said.