Shops at Worthington Place: New High North plans show some shorter facades, no hotel

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group
The Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission approved developer Direct Retail Partners' High North proposal March 25 and recommended that City Council approve a request to rezone the 7227 N. High St. site to a planned-unit-development designation.

Developers behind the High North project have presented an updated design to the Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission with some modifications as consideration of the design nears completion. 

Direct Retail Partners, the Dallas-based commercial real-estate firm that intends to redevelop and rebrand the Shops at Worthington Place mall, shared revised plans with the ARB/MPC on Feb. 25, proposing to lower the elevation of the planned southern office building off West Wilson Bridge Road and to scrap plans for a hotel. 

The original proposal called for demolishing most of the mall and for the new northern and southern office buildings to consist of a multistory parking garage and additional stories above it that together would add up to 8 to 10 stories. In addition, a boutique hotel up to 10 stories tall was proposed on the site, 7227 N. High St. 

Worthington officials initially conducted a cursory review of the proposal Sept. 24, 2020, and the PUD was tabled Oct. 22.

“Based on feedback we’ve received from the community over the past year, we’ve aimed to further address comments (regarding) both the density and physical height of the redevelopment of the Worthington mall,” Chris Hipps, Direct Retail Partners vice president of development and leasing, said during the meeting. “We’ve also aimed to address comments that we heard from market and potential (tenants), including both their requirements and the expense associated with trying to accommodate them.”

The southern office building proposed for Phase 2 of the project initially was proposed as an 8- to 10-story structure. Developers opted to lower the structure to 6 stories after residents expressed concerns that the structure would be too imposing compared to the height of surrounding buildings. 

“One of the things staff and board and commission members and the community brought up relating to the southern building was just the overall height and the feel of it so close to West Wilson Bridge Road,” said Lee Brown, city planning and building director Lee Brown said. “(They wanted to see it brought down a few stories) to kind of match up with the height of the apartments that are just to the west.” 

The proposed 8- to 10-story northern office building that's part of Phase 1 would remain unchanged, Brown said. 

Developers also have opted to scrap plans for a hotel on the site after market feedback suggested the appetite for opening a new hotel location is low due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“None of the big hotel brands are interested right now because of the pandemic,” Brown said. 

Outside some improvements to pedestrian orientation and vehicular circulation, Brown said, much of the original design plans remain unchanged.

Direct Retail Partners is seeking a planning-unit-development designation so it can move forward with development. 

Brown said the proposal could be brought to a vote to recommend a PUD designation to council at the ARB/MPC meeting March 25. If it receives an affirmative vote, the proposal would be brought up for consideration by council. 

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve