Worthington Schools leaders said they are exploring the possibility of acquiring 13.7 acres of the former Harding Hospital site owned by the I Am Boundless Inc. nonprofit organization to build a new Colonial Hills Elementary School.
Jodi Bopp, vice president of advancement for Boundless, said the company determined the site at 445 E. Dublin-Granville Road was too large for its needs. Boundless, which is based in Franklin County, focuses on care for adults and children with behavioral-health challenges and developmental disabilities.
“We did a master-planning process, and we determined we needed a partner for about half of the property we currently own,” Bopp said. “It’s 44 acres, and we don’t need all 44 acres. We need somewhere between 22 and 23.”
She said in late spring, the nonprofit issued a request for proposals for another organization to share the campus where Proprietors Road ends south of Dublin-Granville Road.
Worthington Schools Superintendent Trent Bowers said district leaders met with Boundless to discuss 13.7 acres on the southeast section of the campus at the end of Indianola Avenue, which reaches the property from the south.
Bopp said a price is not associated with the property at this time. She said whether Boundless ultimately would lease or sell the land would be “part of the negotiation process.”
Bowers said the district is interested in the site as a new location for Colonial Hills Elementary School, 5800 Greenwich St., which is not far southwest of the Harding Hospital site. It would be part of phase 2 or 3 of the district’s master facility plan, he said, and the first phase was implemented when voters approved issues 9 and 10 last November.
Issue 9 was a 2.58-mill, $89 million bond that will be used to upgrade technology in all school buildings, purchase new buses, make repairs to all middle schools and help rebuild Perry and Worthingway middle schools. Issue 10 was a permanent incremental operating levy starting at 2.9 mills and increasing by 2 mills each year until it caps at 8.9 mills in its fourth year.
Bowers said a rebuild of any elementary school is not in phase 1 of the master facility plan. He said if Colonials Hills were selected to be a part of phase 2 or later, a new bond issue would need approval from the community in 2022 or later for construction to be possible.
District leaders met Sept. 3 with community members to discuss the potential of the site. Bowers said community members were open to the potential change but some also were uneasy.
“There seems to be a general unease with the potential change of locations for Colonial Hills, and there is uncertainty around what will happen with the current school site should a new Colonial Hills be built,” he said.
On Sept. 9, district leaders took the feedback from the community to the school board to determine next steps with the property, Bowers said.
No decision was made Sept. 9, but district spokeswoman Vicki Gnezda said the school board would vote on entering into an agreement with Boundless at its next meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 23.
“If the board decides to move forward, Worthington Schools would sign an intent to negotiate for a period of time with Boundless,” Bowers said. “The district would also investigate easement rights on the property, complete a title search, have environmental assessments completed and discuss financing options for purchase.”
Bowers said Boundless is seeking several partners for the land, which might create a unique situation and would take more time to negotiate, he said.
Bopp said Boundless is not in a rush to find partners.
“We want to take the time to do it right,” she said.
The hospital land has a long history in Worthington.
George T. Harding founded Harding Hospital in 1916. The hospital focused on helping those with physical and mental disabilities.
In 1999, the hospital became part of the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, and in 2014, Step by Step Academy became the newest owner after purchasing the property from Ohio State.
Step by Step, which offers school-based autism and outpatient programs, merged with Boundless in 2017.
Last April, work began to demolish three buildings – which were designated as D, E and F and sat behind the property at 445 E. Dublin-Granville Road – that had been vacant for “many years,” according to the city of Worthington. They also were dilapidated, and engineer assessments sent to the city showed they were unsafe and would be expensive to repair.