Worthington in 2021: City officials see progress on major developments

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
Worthington City Council President Bonnie Michael (left) and City Manager Matt Greeson say they expect a big year in development for the city.

Despite the challenges faced by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Worthington officials see a productive year ahead for the city, particularly with development.  

Projects under construction or in the pipeline heading into 2021 include Trivium Development’s proposal to develop a 46,000-square-foot mixed-use site at 121 W. Wilson Bridge Road, with plans for a restaurant and retail space on the first floor, office space on the second and third floors and a hotel with approximately 12 rooms on the fourth floor.  

The developer is seeking approvals for a modification to the planned-unit-development zoning application – originally proposed by property-management company Witness Group as part of its nixed plans to develop a 4-story 108-unit Tru by Hilton hotel at that address. The Truvium proposal would be part of the Worthington Gateway project at the site of a Holiday Inn that stood at 7007 N. High St. for years until it was torn down in 2018.  

The modified zoning request recently was approved by the Municipal Planning Commission and is expected to go to City Council for a vote sometime this month. If council approves the modified PUD, Trivium will have 60 days to make changes to its design plans before submitting them to the Architectural Review Board for final approval.  

If ARB approves, the project is clear to move forward.  

“It’s really a pretty exciting project,” council President Bonnie Michael said. “I know that many residents in the area will be very happy to see the development take place and start moving forward. I know they’re looking very forward to having a vibrant facility on that site.”  

Other commercial development projects in the wings are the High North Project at 7227 N. High St. to redevelop the Shops at Worthington Place mall and the proposed redevelopment of the Worthington Inn building at 649 High St.  

The High North PUD was tabled last October with plans to revisit it at an MPC meeting at a later date.  

The ARB approved a conditional-use-permit application for the Worthington Inn redevelopment in November, clearing the way for that project to move forward.  

Officials said they also are excited about the Worthington Northeast Gateway Project, which will realign the intersection of East Wilson Bridge, Worthington Galena and Huntley roads. Construction on the approximate $8 million project began in early October, with completion expected by the end of 2022.  

“The goal in this project is to decrease congestion, enhance bicycle and pedestrian facilities, enhance safety and aesthetically improve the gateway into an industrial and flex-office corridor,” Michael said. “We see this as being an economic-development boost and also an opportunity for transportation. 

“When it’s all done, it’s going to ... really give people a chance to flow through but also give a chance for economic development. A lot of us are really excited to see dirt moving and to see the construction project moving forward, and I think it’s going to be really wonderful for our community.” 

City Manager Matt Greeson said the city plans to keep the public informed about progress of the developments.  

“We’ll try to keep the motoring public and our visitors and everyone informed as to what’s happening in the different facets of the project, and, hopefully, we’re managing it so people can get through effectively,” Greeson said. “It’s among the most complex transportation projects Worthington’s ever undertaken, but it seems to be going well right now.”  

Related story:Trivium's mixed-use building for Worthington Gateway moves another step forward

Related story:Construction of Worthington's Northeast Gateway scheduled to begin Oct. 5

Related story:High North proposal making its way through development process

Related story:New plan for Worthington Inn includes restaurant, residential use

Community visioning  

Greeson said he is excited to see the city’s Community Visioning Initiative progress this year. 

The initiative is an effort to gather information from residents about what direction they want the city to follow in years to come. A 13-member committee spent months developing seven statements it had presented to City Council in November: 

• Worthington is a diverse and equitable community.  

• Worthington is dedicated to the vibrancy of its downtown. 

• Worthington is connected. 

• Worthington is a model for environmental stewardship. 

• Worthington offers a high quality of life. 

• Worthington’s economy is balanced and resilient. 

• Worthington’s leadership is open, forward-thinking and collaborative. 

City officials now must figure out how to implement those statements into action. City Council will discuss the strategies at its digital retreat Jan. 8 and 9.  

“I’m excited about it,” Greeson said. “I think the visioning committee did a remarkable amount of great work rooted in some really good public input. And they also did that creatively during a time of COVID, which was challenging. So hats off to them, but the work’s not over.”  

Michael said one of the main items on the agenda for the digital retreat will be how to take the visioning goals and implement them. 

“Where do we start?” Michael said. “That’s going to be a large part of the retreat because we agreed the visioning project is only as important as the implementation, so we need to figure out ways to help implement the program.” 

Police body cameras 

Greeson said he expects City Council will approve outfitting the Worthington Division of Police with body cameras this year.   

“We anticipate in the first quarter that we will bring that issue back to council, and we’ll have the research, well-written policy, as well as the appropriation in place, to move forward with body cameras,” he said.  

Council approved a $55,000 appropriation from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund in July 2020 to pay for the cameras but tabled discussion about the overall program, citing the need for more information, discussion and community input. 

Coronavirus response  

Greeson said Worthington’s response to the pandemic in 2021 would be “in some ways more of the same but with a light at the end of the tunnel.” 

He said city health workers soon will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.  

“We expect some of our emergency front line, emergency responders, health workers, our paramedics, to start getting vaccinated in the next coming weeks, but for the large majority of the greater public, it’ll be months in the making,” he said. 

Greeson said he hopes residents continue to remain vigilant in the year ahead. In the meantime, the city will continue to conduct whatever business it can digitally.   

“Hopefully, COVID will start to improve. Hopefully, people continue wearing a mask. Hopefully, we get more people vaccinated and we’re able to start returning to normalcy,” Greeson said. “But our anticipation is that a good part of the year will look a lot like it has recently, where we’re being creative and flexible doing virtual meetings, providing services and access to our services virtually and trying to maintain a positive attitude.” 

The city has offered assistance to small businesses and organizations affected by the pandemic, with $100,000 in grants approved Dec. 14 as part of a second annual program and more than $300,000 distributed to businesses as part of the ReBOOT Worthington program.  

“I know it’s very convenient for people to do online ordering from large companies, but they can do online ordering with our small businesses,” Micheal said. “They have curbside pickup. So we really encourage people to think about shopping locally also.”  

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sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve