New plan for Worthington Inn includes restaurant, residential use

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
The Worthington Inn at 649 High St. has been a central Ohio landmark for almost two centuries.

The Worthington Architectural Review Board has approved a conditional-use-permit application submitted by the owner of the Worthington Inn building on 649 High St. to redevelop a portion of the property into a residential and commercial mixed-use site.

With the ARB’s Nov. 12 approval, the property’s owner, 649 High LLC, is free to move forward with the redevelopment of the site, which sits vacant after its restaurant and banquet facilities closed at the beginning of 2019. 

649 High LLC involves the same group that has owned the property since 1982, according to the permit application. Last year, the building had been listed for sale a few months after the restaurant had closed Jan. 1.

A phone number for the New England Development Co., a Worthington real-estate firm, was listed on the application. ThisWeek on Nov. 18 and 19 left messages with a receptionist seeking comment for this story.

Previous story:Five months after closing, Worthington Inn listed for sale

Previous story:Worthington Inn closed indefinitely as of Jan. 1

The application proposed renovating approximately 6,000 square feet into five residential units – one unit on the first floor and two on the second and third floors.

The Worthington Municipal Planning Commission reviewed that request at the ARB meeting and approved residential units on the second and third floors, but commission members opted to keep the first floor open for retail space.

“All of our recommendations and land-use plans call for the first floor to be able to be used for something that’s more active in retail versus just a residential use in that portion of the inn,” said Lee Brown, Worthington's director of planning and building.

On the first floor, 649 High LLC plans to lease to a restaurant tenant and potentially another commercial-type use, depending on how much space the restaurant would need, Brown said.

The owners intend to “redecorate” the ground floor space into something more manageable than the approximate 15,000 square feet of restaurant and banquet space the inn maintained until its closure last year, according to the application. 

The plans also call for minor exterior modifications, including new windows and doors. These modifications were approved by the ARB.

The renovations are projected to cost approximately $400,000.

Brown said with the ARB’s approval, 649 High LLC may consult with an architectural firm to finalize design details and develop building plans to submit to Worthington's building and planning department, a process that could take a few months.

According to the application, the applicants expect to begin construction in early 2021 and complete renovations by late summer 2021.

The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has undergone several changes in its 188 years.

Originally a private residence, the building functioned as an inn by the mid-1850s. The Victorian facade facing High Street in downtown Worthington was added in the early 1900s. In 1937, after a major renovation, the property reopened as the New England Inn in the style it largely had maintained until its 2019 closure.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve