Worthington lost a long-tenured company to Polaris at the end of 2017, but city leaders and developers are planning to get upgraded office space and potentially an even better tenant in return.
In December, Worthington 17 LLC – an affiliate of development and management firm Lawyers Development Corp. – purchased the building at 6740 High St. from Anthem Inc. It is known locally as the "Anthem building."
Lawyers Development Corp. also has purchased and redeveloped several downtown Columbus properties, including the LeVeque Tower, the former Columbia Gas of Ohio headquarters and the former Bicentennial building.
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield had operated the building for "decades," according to Worthington economic-development manager David McCorkle, but was using only a small portion of the building.
"Ultimately, they just needed a much smaller footprint and elected to go to Polaris," he said.
That's when Worthington 17 stepped in, purchasing the building from Anthem on Dec. 27. In a March 13 press release, the company announced a "comprehensive redevelopment" was on the way.
"We are known for undertaking challenging and complex projects, such as the LeVeque Tower," owner Robert Meyers said in the release. "But with the cooperation of the city of Worthington, we are confident this project will bring added vitality and economic growth to this community."
For McCorkle and the city, the new acquisition of the building is a win. McCorkle said he expects the renovations to take the building from B- or C-class to A-class office space, the highest designation and a needed amenity in any community.
"It's a real opportunity," he said. "Anthem was only using a portion of the building. So while it will be a gap for us in income-tax revenue until they get it backfilled, it's a really good opportunity to capitalize here and put a lot of good-paying jobs in that building."
McCorkle said Anthem had about 300 employees and the facility should be large enough for 700 to 900 employees when remodeled.
Dan Williamson of public-relations firm Paul Werth Associates has been acting as a spokesman for Meyer and Worthington 17.
He said the company's leaders have "created their own model" with their work on other buildings.
"That is prime real estate for a business," Williamson said. "Obviously, Anthem has been there for a long time. (Worthington 17 LLC) view the potential to have a really robust business operation there.
"I think they imagine that with the renovations they're suggesting, this would be a very attractive place for businesses to locate. Worthington is a very attractive place, both to live and to work."
Williamson said the developers expect the building to be at "full capacity" eventually and renovations would include the building, its interior and the surrounding landscape.
He said Meyers is "kind of like an artist."
"He sees the building and imagines what it could be," Williamson said. "I think when he first viewed that property, his mind started racing."
The building will be "rebranded" to "6700 North High," and Williamson said work has begun. The project's timeline is not quite certain, though tenants could be coming in as early as 2019, he said.
"I think they're looking at months, understanding that months could go past one year," he said. "But I don't think they're looking at years plural."
Regardless of the timeline, McCorkle said, he and his department are thrilled to have an engaged new owner of the building.
"We're really excited about it," he said.