How can the 1980s-style Wilson Bridge Road office buildings be transformed into a 21st century mixed-use development, combining office, retail and residential uses?

How can the 1980s-style Wilson Bridge Road office buildings be transformed into a 21st century mixed-use development, combining office, retail and residential uses?

That question is expected to come more into focus in 2010 as a study designed to look at the development of the south side of East Wilson Bridge Road expands to include the possible redevelopment of the city's entire north office corridor.

The need to look at the whole area -- taking in all of Wilson Bridge Road, including Worthington Square and existing houses and condominiums -- became evident at a recent meeting of the East Wilson Bridge Planning Study Steering Committee.

The committee includes city representatives, residents and consultants from Bird Houk Collaborative, which was hired by Worthington City Council in October to conduct a study of the possible redevelopment of the south side of East Wilson Bridge Road, from the curve just west of Westview Drive to McCord Park.

The area is currently older, small, one-story homes. The city's comprehensive plan recommends developing the entire 14 acres as a whole, instead of allowing developers to purchase individual homes and build on small parcels.

Several developers have shown interest in the land in recent years, said Worthington development coordinator Lynda Bitar.

At a Dec. 8 meeting, people living immediately south of the land in question made clear that they do not want any kind of development other than single-family residential backing up to their homes.

It was one of those neighbors who suggested the steering committee look at the entire area. When the steering committee met again last week, members agreed it would be a good idea to see how all of the buildings along Wilson Bridge Road could possibly be updated and integrated to meet the demands and trends of the 21st century.

Currently, office buildings on both East and West Wilson Bridge, along with the shopping center, are under-performing, said Dave Foust, a Worthington City Council member who sits on the steering committee.

The idea is to look at the entire area as a potential mixed-use development, with impressive, open-concept offices; high-density, upscale residential; and nearby shops and restaurants to support the offices and homes.

How to make that happen is, of course, the question.

"How do you get the ball rolling?" he asked. "How does one thing tie into everything else?'

With Worthington's reputation as a good place to live and work, and with its location on I-270, the potential is there, he believes.

"Maybe we have what it takes to make this a nice office park," he said.

The next step is to let council and the Community Improvement Corporation know what the steering committee is thinking, and getting its blessings on expanding the focus of the study. That will probably happen in January, said Bitar.

Public meetings that had been scheduled for January will be canceled, with the next public presentations of an expanded study to possibly be held in late February or early March, she said.