Library Lines: Explore the history of Worthington’s mall

Meredith Southard
Worthington Libraries

As city officials consider the redevelopment of the Shops at Worthington Place, take a look back at the history of Worthington’s mall. For even more information, including photos and newspaper articles, go to Worthington Libraries’ local history website, Worthington Memory, at worthingtonmemory.org.

Beginning in 1956 with the first regional indoor shopping center, the Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota, malls sprouted up around the country. Three years after the opening of the Southdale Center, the future of Worthington’s mall had begun to take focus. In 1959, Worthington City Council voted to rezone the land, then owned by Everett Antrim, to allow development of a shopping center. Worthington voters rejected the rezoning by a landslide, however, through a referendum on the November 1960 ballot.

Meredith Southard

The issue was not over, though, and with the passage of new zoning ordinances, the city approved the development of a shopping center in October 1967. The developer, Planned Communities Inc., started construction in 1970 with access improvements, installing the four-lane West Wilson Bridge Road to replace West Old Wilson Bridge Road’s two lanes. On Oct. 29, 1972, the Worthington Square Shopping Center opened its first stores: Kroger, Cochran Pharmacies, Swan Cleaners, the Toy Box, Cassano Pizza King, Natural Foods, Little Professor Book Center, Lair’s Hallmark Center and Oriental Specialties.

The southwest portion of the mall was opened in 1974 and featured shops selling clothes, records, fabrics and sporting goods.

In 1984, the mall was enclosed, and the November grand reopening included break-dancers, double-dutch jump-ropers, Columbus Zoo animals, clowns, choirs and an orchestra.

Over the next three decades, the mall underwent a series of changes in owners and names. In 1988, Aetna Life and Casualty became co-owner with Planned Communities and full owner in 1991. That year, the name changed to Worthington Mall.

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In 1997, Columbus Retail bought the mall, and in 2002, Carpenter & Company took over management, changing the name back to Worthington Square in 2005.

CB Richard Ellis took over as property manager in 2006, and in 2008, General Electric Financial bought it. By the time Morris-Floyd Capital partners and Tom Carter bought Worthington Square two years later, occupancy was at 40%. They would spend $10 million renovating, renaming it the Shops at Worthington Place in 2011. When the mall was sold in 2019 to Direct Retail Partners, it was at 92% occupancy.

The future of malls in the U.S. was grim, however, even before COVID-19 struck. A 2017 Credit Suisse report predicted one in four U.S. malls would close by 2022. In a Jan. 28, 2020, ThisWeek story, the president and CEO of DRP noted, “Nothing is really wrong with the (Worthington) mall, but the world has moved away from simple enclosed malls.”

As ThisWeek has reported, the city is considering a DRP proposal to redevelop the Shops at Worthington Place into a mixed-used space rebranded as High North. With its prime location, the spot is ideal for revitalization and, hopefully, will continue to reflect the best interests of the city for decades to come.

Meredith Southard is an adult-services librarian for Worthington Libraries.