The Witness Group has changed direction in the Worthington Gateway mixed-use development at High Street and Wilson Bridge Road, pulling its plans to build a Tru by Hilton hotel and looking to fill the space with high-end offices.

Ohm Patel, a member of the Witness Group and an independent developer, said the hotel market is difficult for the next 18 months because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, which forced the local builder to adjust to the business climate.

"We can't wait to develop the hotel for another 18 months," Patel said. "Because (the development is) mixed-use, everything needs to be done at the same time. We also were under a timeline because we have a (tax-increment-financing) agreement with the city of Worthington."

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

Patel said the new office building would be built on roughly the same footprint, but it would be taller than the 4-story hotel and designed to "attract strong businesses -- a mix of really high-end corporate."

He said the company would need legislative support, but he still hopes to begin construction by the end of June.

The 108-unit Tru by Hilton hotel was planned for 121 W. Wilson Bridge Road on the former site of a Holiday Inn.

"While we are disappointed that this project, and by extension, the city, will be without a hotel, we are confident the project will still be successful," said David McCorkle, Worthington's economic-development director. "We are working closely with the property owner to identify alternative opportunities that will support the overall success of the development and be economically beneficial to the community. COVID-19 has certainly had an impact on the hotel industry and on the viability of constructing a new hotel at this time.

"Worthington is a great community, and this is a great location. We know that we will see positive development here in the future."