Worthington City Council approves High North development agreement

Stephen Borgna
ThisWeek group

Worthington City Council recently approved a development agreement with the High North project developer to appropriate city funds to help finance “public improvements” around the development site.

The agreement calls for the city to appropriate up to $1.5 million to help the developer fund off-site improvements to exterior features around the Shops at Worthington Place property, particularly regarding appearance and pedestrian orientation, according to Worthington economic development-director David McCorkle.

Worthington City Council on May 17 approved an agreement to appropriate up to $1.5 million for multiple off-site improvements surrounding the planned High North development, 7227 N. High St. Council on April 19 approved a planned-unit-development zoning change for the project.

“They’re not actually things that they’re doing to the mall, but they’re things that are being done in the public right of way that the city is supportive of,” McCorkle said.

“Part of these improvements include working with the traffic flow and pedestrian flow, and (trying to make it so) the development is going to be able to have better ingress and egress,” council President Bonnie Michael said.

Among the projects planned as part of the off-site development in the agreement include a monument sign, new fencing, accent lighting, new columns and pillars along both sides of High Street near the High North site, and landscaping and pedestrian crossings with brick work on West Wilson Bridge Road near the entrance to the development, McCorkle said.

Council approved the development agreement May 17 with DRP Worthington, the limited partnership of High North developer Direct Retail Partners, which aims to rebrand and redevelop the Shops at Worthington Place mall, 7227 N. High St, into a mixed-use property that was approved for a planned-unit development zoning designation by council April 19.

McCorkle said several of these improvements previously were identified as part of the city’s West Wilson Bridge corridor plan but were never implemented because the city couldn’t allocate funding for them.

“This project is kind of the impetus for moving forward with some of those improvements,” he said.

The city is not conducting any of the work but will reimburse Direct Retail Partners up to $1.5 million for the projects outlined in the agreement, McCorkle said, and Direct Retail Partners will finance any remainder.

In a presentation to council May 17, McCorkle said the appropriation is an investment for the city and is “more risk and more reward than the city has taken on in the past,” but investing in High North represents a worthwhile opportunity to help turn around the mall site, which was a “struggling” asset in need of redevelopment.

“I don’t believe there are a ton of alternatives to moving forward and supporting this project,” he said. “If this project does move forward as anticipated, it is a catalyst for continued investment.”

McCorkle said in his presentation that the city is projecting approximately $80 million in investment between the High North development’s office space and improvements to the mall site, as well as adding hundreds of new jobs to the Worthington economy.

McCorkle said work on the off-site improvements is expected to coincide with the demolition of the Shops at Worthington Place mall and construction of the High North site, which is expected to begin later this summer or in early fall.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve