With time soon expiring to make an offer on property on the New England Avenue portion of the Showe property, city officials are nearly ready to ask the public for their thoughts.

With time soon expiring to make an offer on property on the New England Avenue portion of the Showe property, city officials are nearly ready to ask the public for their thoughts.

City Manager Matt Greeson said Worthington City Council should have an agenda item prepared by "early or mid-April" for a public hearing on the idea of acquiring the space for the "pocket park" in which some residents have expressed interest.

When they approved a preliminary plan for construction of nine living spaces on the Showe property, formerly the Masonic Lodge and Snow House, council members added a provision that gave them 120 days to present a "letter of understanding" that told the developer the city would buy a small portion of the space to use for a public park.

After the meeting, a group called Citizens for Historic Worthington was formed and took to newspaper advertisements and contact with City Council to plead its case.

"The one thing that differentiates Worthington from competing suburbs is our historic district," Citizens member David Robinson said. "From a business point of view, it's our 'secret sauce.' Anything that dilutes this irreplaceable asset is shortsighted and foolish."

Despite the many concessions made by the developers, such as lowering density from 15 to nine units, the group's members say they could do more, and they see the park as a necessity for the development.

"The creation of this special city park will help turn the Showe development into a better project that benefits all of Worthington," the group's advertisement claimed.

City Council has had three executive sessions to discuss the purchase and has been in touch with the developer, who agreed to the 120-day time frame and has entertained the idea of selling the land.

"It's public knowledge, based on what they said at the hearing for the (preliminary play), that they were open to creating the 120-day provision in those documents to negotiate in good faith with the city, and that's what they've been doing," Greeson said.

Greeson and staff members already have determined that any funding for the purchase would have to come from the city's capital-improvements fund. To take the money, council would have to either dip into the reserve portion of the funds or a project already planned for 2015 would have to be delayed or canceled.

"So we know that if the council ends up deciding to make an acquisition and the Showes are willing to sell it, that's where the funds will be derived from," Greeson said. "The effect of that on any other projects or future projects hasn't been determined yet."

Greeson said Worthington's Community Improvement Corp. likely would not be involved in the purchase, but he left open the possibility of the CIC's involvement if the city were to receive a large donation. Donations have been discussed, he said, but with very little concrete action.

"There have been some (offers)," he said, "but not a lot of specificity."

The park itself would have to be maintained by city personnel, Greeson said, and leaders are looking into the cost associated with various types of designs.

"We're in the process of evaluating that; it obviously depends on how it's developed," he said. "There's a range of things you could do in a pocket park, from a simple walk and a bench to something more ornate. But just like your backyard, you know the more ornate you go, the more maintenance goes up. So it really depends."

At this point, Greeson said, council and staff members are appraising the property's value, evaluating costs of maintenance and engaging in discussions with the Showes and residents.

Although the park was an afterthought at the beginning, council is doing its due diligence now, Greeson said.

"I think council is evaluating it very seriously," he said.