Lifestyle Communities plan proposes 730 homes at United Methodist Children's Home site

Jim Weiker
ThisWeek group
Lifestyle Communities has submitted a 473-page plan to build 730 residences on the United Methodist Children's Home property in the heart of Worthington.

A Columbus company is taking another run at developing almost 40 acres in the heart of Worthington – on one of the most-contentious pieces of property in central Ohio.

Lifestyle Communities has submitted a 473-page plan to build 730 residences on the property, which once was the site of a United Methodist Children's Home residential facility at 1033 N. High St.

The application was submitted to Worthington on Oct. 5, according to a city news release. The property still is owned by United Methodist Children's Home, according to the application documents.

The development proposal is expected to be discussed at the Worthington Municipal Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board meeting Nov. 12, according to Worthington spokesperson Anne Brown.

"The city received a substantial application in both volume and content, and staff is actively going through the materials to better understand the proposal," she said. "This is the first step in a public process that will include many opportunities for public input."

Read the application:Lifestyle Communities' United Methodist Children's Home site proposal

Lifestyle officials are seeking to rezone the property from specific uses to a planned-unit development, according to the application.

This is Lifestyle's second effort to develop the 38-acre site on the west side of High Street, just north of downtown Worthington.

However, it is the first plan Lifestyle officials formally submitted to the city, according to Brown.

In 2015, the company presented a plan to the community to build about 350 apartments and about 250 patio houses, townhouses and larger single-family residences on the site. However, the plans were not submitted to the city as a development application at the time, Brown said.

Lifestyle dropped the plan after considerable opposition from residents, who said the development was too dense and contained too many apartments.

Other plans have come and gone, as well.

Earlier this year, OhioHealth withdrew a plan to build a medical facility on a portion of the property.

Residents also opposed an earlier plan to build a grocery store on the site, which has sat largely unused for a decade after the United Methodist Church closed the children's home there. The residential facility was closed in December 2010.

The United Methodist Children’s Home residential facility closed in December 2010 at 1033 N. High St. in Worthington.

With its new plan, Lifestyle would up the ante, proposing 540 apartments instead of 350 and attached 2- and 3-story townhouses instead of patio homes. 

In a note accompanying the proposal, Lifestyle officials said the plan addresses a need for more housing options in Worthington, especially for newer, maintenance-free options. The company noted that Worthington's housing stock and its residences are older than many other central Ohio suburbs.

"There is considerable need for attached and multifamily housing choices designed for empty-nesters, active adults and boomers who want the option of leaving their traditional single-family homes." Lifestyle officials wrote. "Many other central Ohio communities are providing such options and accommodating the changing needs of longtime residents. The proposed development provides Worthington residents the ability to downsize in their own community."

In addition to the apartments, Lifestyle's plan indicated:

• A ring of large lots for 24 single-family homes would be situated on the west and north edges of the property.

• Inside that ring, 9 acres would contain 94 2- and 3-story attached townhouse condominiums for sale.

• South of that, another 5 acres would include 72 attached townhouses for rent.

• The apartments would be on 11 acres off High Street, along with 60,000 square feet of commercial space and 25,000 square feet of medical offices. Possible tenants for the commercial space include stores, restaurants, pharmacies, banks, assorted professional offices and other medical offices, Lifestyle officials said.

• A 6½-acre strip along a ravine would be left as green space on the property's southern edge.

Lifestyle officials presented the plan as a dynamic, modern mixed-use space. 

"New single-family homes, town homes, apartments, medical/office and retail spaces with integrated greenspaces and activity centers are designed to serve the changing demographics and economic needs of the community," Lifestyle's proposal said.

The plan is almost certain to attract opposition from residents seeking more green space and less density on the site.

"I don’t see the community supporting this; I just don’t," said Andy Hutter, a co-chair of Project Community Park Worthington, which in August presented a plan calling for the city to purchase the site and sell some of it for commercial and residential development while keeping 31 acres as a park.

Hutter said the proposal ignores all the objections to Lifestyle's first plan. 

"After that plan was rejected outright, they come back and increase the residency count by almost 50%?" Hutter said. "What LC’s proposal makes clear is that this is a development for them, and it prioritizes their money-making, not the community. ... It's really difficult to find anything redeeming about the proposal."

ThisWeek editor Neil Thompson contributed to this story.

jweiker@dispatch.com

@JimWeiker