The Shops at Worthington Place has changed hands, signaling potential changes for the 45-year-old mall at 7227 N. High St. in Worthington.

Dallas investment company Direct Retail Partners paid $19.8 million for the property, which includes 140,000 square feet of enclosed retail space on 15 acres.

President and CEO David Watson said the company is pleased with the mall, which is off U.S. Route 23 and south of Interstate 270, but expects to present plans this summer to change the property.

"Obviously, it's really good real estate in a great community," Watson said. "We're making plans, slowly and methodically, as to what we think might be best. Some plans would include some repurposing of space, some different uses."

Watson did not elaborate but added, "Nothing is really wrong with the mall, but the world has moved away from simple enclosed malls."

The mall was built in 1974 and has undergone extensive renovations over the past decade, as owners sought to offset the loss of conventional retail tenants with restaurants and service tenants.

The property is 92% leased, according to JLL Capital Markets, which arranged financing for the acquisition.

The mall's 36 tenants include Talbots, Panera, Orvis, Kenneth's Hair Salon, First Watch, Aladdin's Eatery, Howard Brooks Interior, Urban Baggerie and Lume Family Eyecare.

Columbus developer Tom Carter bought the mall – then called the Worthington Square Mall – in 2010 and spent the next decade trying to reposition the property as several mainstream retailers left, including Chico's, Victoria's Secret, Jos A. Bank, White House Black Market and Bath & Body Works.

The addition of new restaurants, Howard Brooks Interiors and two fitness studios last year brought the mall to more than 90% full.

Howard Brooks sales representative Linda Shrager said tenants have met the new owners and are awaiting details on the mall's future.

"We're all anxiously awaiting to see what they've got up their sleeves and what they have in mind," Shrager said.

Although restaurants, salons and fitness studios draw traffic, they have failed to draw shoppers, said Troy McElmurray, who owns Urban Baggerie with his wife, Christie.

"Right now, it's a glorified strip mall," he said.

"All the retailers are inside. All you see are restaurants. Many people don't know there's a mall behind the restaurants, which is unfortunate. ... I don't know how stores make it; there's just not a lot of traffic."

McElmurray said he is hopeful but concerned about the mall's future under new ownership.

"I hate to see the mall continue to flatline, so we all hope they do well, but in the age of retail we're in now, it's tough," he said.

Although the mall has seen important changes, so has the surrounding area. The Heights at Worthington Place was built immediately west of the property, adding apartments and medical offices to the area.

Across West Wilson Bridge Road to the south, work is underway to convert the site of the former Holiday Inn to Worthington Gateway, a mixed-use development anchored by a hotel.

This is the first Ohio investment for Direct Retail Partners, which specializes in large retail centers.

Watson said he was in Columbus on business last year when he learned the mall was on the market.

"I was really impressed by the climate of the real-estate community there and became interested in all the activity I saw," he said. "This property was being marketed, and we became really interested in Worthington."

jweiker@dispatch.com

@JimWeiker