Construction of the Worthington Gateway at the former Holiday Inn site, 7007 N. High St., could begin in May, after all necessary legislation takes effect, according to Worthington officials.

Worthington City Council on March 18 held a public hearing for ordinances to rezone the former Holiday Inn property from a highway and automotive-services zoning designation to a planned-use district; to approve a final plat and subdivider's agreement; and to authorize the city to accept a property transfer for the land at 7007 N. High St. to allow establishment of a tax-increment-financing district, according to the meeting agenda.

Council members voted 7-0 in favor of each measure.

David McCorkle, Worthington's economic-development director, said the developer, Witness Group, plans to wait until the planned-use district is effective in May to start construction. The PUD has a 60-day waiting period, he said.

The former hotel site appears to be ready for redevelopment. On March 18, it mostly had been cleared of the rubble from last December's demolition of the Holiday Inn.

The Witness Group's Worthington Gateway mixed-use redevelopment is expected to include a 111-room, 4-story Hampton Inn & Suites, with up to five other buildings that would contain more than 19,000 square feet of office space and more than 30,000 square feet for retail, according to the plan shown at the March 18 meeting. The site is west of U.S. Route 23.

The development previously was known as the Village at Worthington Square, but the developer has changed the name of the project to Worthington Gateway, according to city spokeswoman Anne Brown.

Lee Brown, director of planning and building for the city, said the redevelopment would create better pedestrian and bicycle access to the site. City leaders have worked with the owners of the Shops at Worthington Place mall to add improvements to the intersection at West Wilson Bridge Road, Caren Avenue and High Street, he said.

"You have been seeing that game of 'Frogger' of people running across the street to the hotel and trying to go back over into the mall site," he said.

The project also will include a new stormwater drainage system, Lee Brown said. The current system was built in the 1970s, when EPA regulations were minimal, he said.

Steve and Jayne Rosandich, who live on Caren Avenue behind the former hotel, told City Council drainage issues have cropped up because of the High Street property. The couple showed a video of the runoff that appears to flood their driveway when it rains. They said the flooding has ruined their driveway and caused their retaining wall to collapse.

Ohm Patel, CEO of the Witness Group and developer for the Worthington Gateway, said he is committed to a plan to solve the stormwater problems and wants to move forward with the project as soon as possible to fix the issue.

"I'd like to fix the source of the problem (rather) than trying to continuing to put Band-Aids on the issue," he said.

The third piece of legislation, the property transfer, paved the way for a tax-increment-financing district to be applied to the property. It will go into effect in 21 days, McCorkle said.

A second round of legislation for the project will be considered next month.

City Manager Matt Greeson said the TIF and a development agreement were scheduled for a public hearing April 15.

McCorkle said the TIF would be a 30-year "nonschool" TIF agreement.

He said a TIF is an economic-development tool used to fund public improvements.

A TIF locks in the taxable worth of real property at the value it holds at the time the authorizing legislation is approved, diverting resulting incremental revenue to designated uses, such as funding necessary improvements or infrastructure to support a new development, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

McCorkle said under a standard TIF, property-tax revenue generated by the increased value of the site is diverted from entities that typically receive the revenues into a TIF fund.

This can include schools, park districts, libraries and other social-service agencies, he said.

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