Thanks to development interest at the company's downtown Columbus site, the owners of Schoedinger Funeral and Cremation Services are considering moving their headquarters to Worthington and expanding the company's presence in the city.
Schoedinger has several properties throughout central Ohio, with six locations in Columbus and eight others mostly in the suburbs, including 6699 N. High St. in Worthington.
Aaron Underhill, an attorney with Underhill and Hodge LLC, has been representing Schoedinger. He said the company has received interest from a developer regarding the company's headquarters at 229 E. State St. in Columbus.
"One scenario would have that office be removed, creating the need to relocate that office and the existing jobs to go along with it," Underhill said.
Worthington represents the frontrunner for the headquarters and about 45 jobs it would bring with it, he said.
Underhill said an undeveloped plot owned by Schoedinger in Dublin is in play, along with other central Ohio locations.
But "the location on High Street and fact that there is ample additional land to construct" makes the Worthington site the favorite, though far from guaranteed, he said.
Schoedinger's owners would like to build two buildings on the site, Underhill said. One would be for the headquarters and the other would be for a funeral and cremation facility designed for pets.
"The decision is in flux based on whether or not we think we can find someplace to relocate both of these components," he said. "It remains to be seen. If we can get the approvals we need, we think the decision will be made to relocate (in Worthington). But if we don't think those appropriations can be made, we'll either stay put or find another location."
Multiple components of the company's proposal have come before Worthington's municipal-planning commission and architectural review board.
Lee Brown, Worthington's planning and development director, said information presented at a Sept. 14 joint meeting was "a lot to take in at one meeting" for city staff members and commission members alike. He said the topics are likely to be discussed again this month or in November.
"With all those different things going on, you're trying to figure out the coordination of items and when it will go to boards and commissions and to (Worthington) City Council for approval," he said.
As has been the case with most development projects along High Street, some public pushback has occurred.
Underhill said 20 to 25 residents came to the Sept. 14 meeting and some expressed concerns over topics ranging from pollution and traffic to "trauma" it would cause children to live next to a crematory. However, he said, if Schoedinger believed any of those concerns, the company would "be looking to relocate somewhere else."
"We're not surprised with the fact that residents and neighbors have some concerns about this, but it's our opinion that with the technology being used here, any of the perceived problems that there would be with either of these cremation uses are not accurate," Underhill said. "We believe neighbors will really not be able to notice that this is even what the use is."
Neither Brown nor Underhill had any timeline for the project, but Underhill said Schoedinger would prefer a quick process.
"The sooner they can get started, the better," he said. "But I don't know that there's anything in particular driving a timeline at this point."