Lifestyle Communities receives permission to demolish buildings at former United Methodist Children’s Home site

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group

The Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission have approved a permit for Lifestyle Communities to begin demolition of the 15 buildings on the former United Methodist Children’s Home site at 1033 N. High St.

According to the permit, which was approved Feb. 11, demolition of the first structure was scheduled to begin Feb. 15, starting with a residential home at 77 Longfellow Ave. Demolition of the remaining buildings is scheduled to take place over the course of the next two to three months.

Worthington planning and building director Lee Brown said the demolition schedule would begin pending weather conditions, considering the snow and winter conditions throughout central Ohio the week of Feb. 15. 

The United Methodist Children’s Home residential facility closed in December 2010 at 1033 N. High St. in Worthington. Lifestyle Communities now has an approved permit to to begin demolition of 15 buildings on the site to make way for a new development.

Many of the structures scheduled to be demolished were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s, the application said. One was built in 1930, and a few others were constructed in 1988. 

The buildings have fallen into a state of dilapidation following the closure of UMCH's residential facility in December 2010 and in the years prior. 

“There are 15 buildings on this site that have not been used probably in decades and are in poor repair,” Brown said.

The demolition application was specific about the conditions.

"The current conditions of the buildings range from a general state of disrepair and functional obsolescence to an acute nuisance condition in several cases, including structural deterioration, collapsing floors and ceilings, mold growth, the need for controlled asbestos abatement and elimination of possible animal infestation,” the application said. 

The properties are owned by Worthington Campus, an LLC for Lifestyle Communities, according to the application. 

According to Trevor Arnold, who works in land development for Lifestyle Communities, the company will have the demolition sites reseeded with grass and restored to a natural state after the demolition work is complete. 

“On the surface, it would be restored to a grass condition and maintained by our property-management group,” Arnold told ARB officials at the Feb. 11 meeting. 

Lifestyle Communities proposed building a 730-home development on the site in October.

The proposal calls for a mix of apartments, townhouses, single-family homes and more spanning more than 40 acres.

The proposal has been in a holding pattern after Lifestyle Communities encountered some pushback from some Worthington officials and residents over whether the proposed community fits into Worthington’s architectural style, as well as traffic, crowding and environmental implications.

The project would require the site's zoning to be changed to a planned-unit development.

The company requested no vote be taken on the rezoning measure at an ARB and MPC meeting Jan. 14 . Its application was tabled for a later date.

Michael Bates, a member of the Worthington Alliance for Responsible Development – a 501(c)(3) community organization advocating that property development within the city corresponds with the 2005 Worthington Comprehensive Plan and WARD’s guiding principles – said he thinks the ARB and MPC should have explored other avenues instead of approving the demolition procedures.

Bates said he wrote a letter to the MPC asking it not to approve the demolition. He said he suggested the buildings that are deteriorating be fenced off until the future of the property is more clear or that the commissions should have been "more selective" in what buildings are demolished and that other buildings be "secured." 

“The buildings are clearly a problem, so I understand why the owner would want to remove the buildings,” he said. “But my point with the Municipal Planning Commission was there should have been some discussion around alternatives before blanket approval of just the demolition.”

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve