More High North details revealed at Worthington meeting

Gary Seman Jr.
ThisWeek group
The owners of the Shops at Worthington Place propose demolishing much of the mall and replacing it with offices. This rendering shows the proposed first office building, on the north side of the property.

Direct Retail Partners’ ambitious proposal to redevelop 15 acres and raze a portion of the Shops at Worthington Place mall received a cursory review from Worthington officials Sept. 24.

However, the Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission did not take action on High North, a mixed-use plan that includes a garage up to five stories topped with a building, also up to five stories, that would have class A office space.

Direct Retail Partners is seeking a planned-unit development-designation at 7227 N. High St., which is southwest of Interstate 270 and U.S. Route 23.

The Dallas-based developer, which purchased the property last year, presented its plan in two phases.

Phase 1 would result in the demolition of the northern and western sides of the indoor mall, which is seen as underperforming and heading in the wrong economic direction, said David Watson, managing principal of Direct Retail Partners.

“Obviously we knew the mall was really struggling, so we set about what changes could be made,” Watson said.

The plan is to improve vehicle traffic and pedestrian access and create landscaped open-air plazas, he said.

“We are very interested in how the pedestrian moves about this property,” Watson said.

In addition to office space, phase 1 would including dining and highly desired personal services, he said.

Also, the Kroger grocery store would remain in place, he said.

Related story:Redevelopment plans would demolish most of the Shops at Worthington Place mall

Phase 2, which would be planned several years out, would include a second office building, constructed in a similar fashion as the first, Watson said. With the synergy of the revitalized landscape, a boutique hotel – up to 10 stories tall – would be part of the complex, he said.

Members of the panels and those who spoke at the virtual meeting generally expressed approval of the project.

Tom Reis, vice chair of the ARB, said in the long run, the modern offices could help pay for the city services.

“I think this is something we need to embrace as a community,” he said.

However, Paulette Thomas, owner of Paulette’s Palace and Productions in the western portion of the mall, said the communication between the new owners and tenants was done in a “negative, horrible manner.”

Thomas refuted the notion that some tenants in the mall are not viable but struck a note of optimism about Direct Retail Partners’ project.

“I think I can bring a lot to this plan,” she said. “I think I can be a viable business.”

Members of the ARB/MPC told the audience consideration of the project would be a long process, possibly taking several months and with Worthington City Council having the final vote on the matter. The plans were tabled for a future meeting.

The corner of North High Street and Wilson Bridge Road near the mall has drawn the interest of developers in recent years.

Columbus-based Trivium Development recently submitted plans to build a 46,000-square-foot building with modern office space, 12 to 24 boutique hotel rooms, a restaurant and a private club on the former Holiday Inn site at 7007 N. High St., essentially across Wilson Bridge Road from Direct Retail Partners’ property.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary