The change to a Tru by Hilton hotel at the Worthington Gateway mixed-use development will have to wait a little longer, according to the Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission.
The request to change the hotel from a Hampton Inn & Suites was tabled Dec. 12, although the ARB signed off on the plan for the multitenant building that will go in front of the hotel.
The Worthington Gateway project involves the redevelopment of the former Holiday Inn site at 7007 N. High St. with a new hotel and up to five other buildings that would contain 15,000 to 19,000 square feet of office space and more than 20,000 square feet for restaurants and small service-oriented businesses. The Holiday Inn was torn down a year ago to make room for the mixed-use development, which has been in the planning stage for several years.
Lynda Bitar, a planner for Worthington, said the project has new addresses, with the multitenant building at 7105 N. High St and the future hotel at 121 W. Wilson Bridge Road.
The multitenant building will incorporate different storefronts and roof lines to match other architecture in Worthington, according to Bitar.
Its construction date hasn't been determined, but it is anticipated to be sometime in fall 2020, according to Ohm Patel, CEO of Witness Group, the Lewis Center-based development company handling the project.
Patel said the building would be phased separately from the hotel, and its completion does not rely on the hotel being built because it is being financed separately.
Meanwhile, Patel presented the reason for the hotel change to Worthington City Council on Nov. 18.
The change requires approval by both the ARB and MPC after the final pieces of legislation pertaining to the development had been approved in April.
"This application is a request for approval of a Tru hotel, which is designed differently than the previously approved Hampton Inn and Suites," the Dec. 12 meeting agenda said. "Because the architectural style is part of the standards set forth in the (planned-unit development), a modification to the PUD is required in addition to (the Worthington) Architectural Review Board approval."
Patel said Witness was unable to gain approval for the Hampton Inn after a planned-use district was approved by the city because of market changes in the area.
"Market changes affect projects, especially when you're not breaking ground for three or four years," he said.
He said the new hotel brand being proposed, a newer Hilton brand called Tru, would be a 4-story building with 104 rooms. The 4-story Hampton would have had 111 rooms, according to previous plans.
Patel said the newer Hilton brand caters to a younger corporate market.
Tru is known for having smaller rooms with "lean design" components, including wall-mounted televisions, open shelves for unpacking, minimal furniture and larger bathrooms, according to hilton.com.
Patel said he is confident in the brand and Hilton would not release something that would not work.
"Marriott does not have a competitor to it and no other brand does," Patel said. "We would not bring a $15 million asset to the table that will fail."
Some residents also expressed opinions on the development.
Karen Gibson, who lives on Caren Avenue, said she has been disappointed by the project.
"My husband and I still feel that this Tru hotel by Hilton is not consistent with the more upscale hotel that we had been anticipating," she said.
Patel said many comments by residents were "personal perception" and not based on any facts.
He said he wants to stay focused on the project.
"I know there's a lot to digest, but in terms of us, we want to move the needle," he said. I'm never going to make everyone happy."
ARB and MPC member David Foust said some of the neighbors had a point about the slow progress of the project. He also said the Tru would not be his first choice for a hotel.
"I'm not pointing fingers or blaming anyone," he said.
Patel said if Worthington doesn't act, Tru would be picked up by the Polaris Fashion Place neighborhood or other surrounding areas, and he would have no remaining brand for the site.
The hotel is expected to return to the ARB and MPC at a later date. The next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 9.