High North proposal making its way through development process

Stephen Borgna
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.

The Dallas-based commercial real-estate firm behind the High North project to redevelop and rebrand the Shops at Worthington Place mall presented several design-change proposals to the Worthington Architectural Review Board on Oct. 22.

Previous story:More High North details revealed at Worthington meeting

The presentation was the latest step in the development process as Direct Retail Partners works to put together a final site proposal, on which the Worthington Municipal Planning Commission eventually will make a recommendation to Worthington City Council, according to Lee Brown, Worthington's planning and building director.

Council will have final say on the matter after consideration of the proposal is complete.

The proposed High North location at 7227 N. High St., which is southwest of Interstate 270 and U.S. Route 23, also would require a planned-unit-development zoning designation to proceed.

The PUD was tabled Oct. 22.

Brown said the PUD tentatively is planned to return to the Municipal Planning Commission for a November or December meeting.

One of the changes presented Oct. 22 was to eliminate an entrance to a parking garage at the end of a pedestrian-oriented street leading through the center of the development to allow site operators to close the street and utilize it as an extension of the public plaza for events, according to David Watson, managing principal of Direct Retail Partners.

“Our idea for this mall or this promenade is when we're in a work week, this street is most likely open to one-way, northbound vehicular traffic,” Watson told ARB members. “But on weekends, holidays, other times, we’re really trying to set this up for community activity, street fairs, festivals, whatever the community wants to celebrate and use it for.

"And so if you think about that street being closed, you think about how much more of a focal point that area actually becomes as you try to determine what might be the best use of that.”

“One of the things that was brought up and the (municipal-planning commissioners) mentioned was when you’re coming into the site itself, do you really want to funnel your traffic all throughout the middle of the site?” Brown said. “Maybe (instead) funnel it around the periphery to get into the new office building on the north side of the site.”

Other proposed changes include moving the southern office building back an additional 50 to 70 feet away from Wilson Bridge Road after public comments and planning commissioner concerns that the building was too close to the road.

Watson also said Direct Retail Partners has had preliminary discussions with Kroger about restriping the parking lot at 60 Worthington Mall to provide more parking and better vehicle access to High North. 

Watson said his firm also is exploring adding sidewalks in and around the development to increase connectivity for pedestrians, particularly along a section of West Wilson Bridge Road and Old Wilson Bridge Road bordering the site.

A northern office space off Old Wilson Bridge Road would be built in phase 1 of the project, and a southern office space off West Wilson Bridge Road would be part of Phase 2, which, if approved, is expected to be planned for several years out. Both structures would be layered on top of parking garages that together would be 8 to 10 stories tall.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve