High North: Developer gets Worthington ARB, MPC approval; plan moves to council

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group

Direct Retail Partners’ proposal to rebrand and redevelop the Shops at Worthington Place mall into the High North mixed-use development at 7227 N. High St. has received approval from Worthington’s Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission, thereby moving the proposal to city council for consideration. 

The ARB and MPC vote during their March 25 meeting was a recommendation that council approve the proposal – which would demolish most of the property and rebuild it into a mix of restaurant, retail, commercial office space and public areas and was pitched by Direct Retail Partners as a means to salvage the mall development – for a planned-unit-development zoning designation. 

Direct Retail Partners, a Dallas-based commercial real-estate firm, needs the zoning changed to a PUD to move forward with the project.

Lee Brown, the city's planning and building director, said March 30 the PUD item would be introduced to council during its April 5 meeting, with a public hearing scheduled for April 19. City council president Bonnie Michael said it’s likely council will pass the zoning change when it eventually votes on it. 

“I believe council will approve this,” he said. “All the council members have had an opportunity to be briefed on the project. And as far as municipal planning, we haven’t had any major outcry from the public in opposition.” 

If and when council approves the zoning change, Brown said, the project then would enter a 60-day referendum period. 

The Worthington Architectural Review Board and Municipal Planning Commission approved developer Direct Retail Partners' High North proposal on March 25 and recommended city council approve their request to rezone the 7227 N. High St. site to a planned unit development designation. City officials said the item will be introduced to council in April.

During this time, he said, any residents who disapprove of the zoning change have the right to file a petition to take the change to a referendum vote and possibly overturn it. 

Developers also could change their proposal during the referendum period, Brown said. But depending on the change – such as if the developer wanted to add another story to one of the site’s two proposed office buildings, which would go against the zoning that already had been approved – they might have to go through the zoning process again. 

But no additional steps may be taken until the referendum period expires and the new zoning is enacted

“They’re not able to do anything until then,” Brown said. “So it would probably be at least mid- to late June before the zoning goes into effect.” 

Once the referendum period expires and the zoning goes into effect, Brown said, developers then would go back to the ARB and MPC for final ARB approval and final plan approval related to the PUD, “just to make sure everything matches up to what city council approves.” 

Direct Retail Partners’ then would be clear to begin development if all  conditions are met. 

Brown said the ARB and MPC have approved the latest proposal packet presented to them in late February. 

The major changes in the latest proposal included scrapping plans for a hotel due to a lack of interested tenants and trimming the southern office building from 8-10 stories to 6 following concern from board and commission members and some in the community that the building, located off of West Wilson Bridge Road, would be too imposing over some of the surrounding buildings. 

The southern building would be constructed in phase 2 of the project. An 8- to 10-story northern office building off Old Wilson Bridge Road would be built as part of phase 1. 

Both buildings contain a parking garage with additional stories layered above. 

Other minor changes presented in the latest proposal included alterations to promote better pedestrian orientation and vehicular circulation on the site. 

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve