A Texas developer has submitted a plan to redevelop and rebrand the Shops at Worthington Place mall into a mixed-used space called High North, according to a news release sent Friday, Sept. 18, by the city of Worthington.
Dallas-based Direct Retail Partners had purchased the property in December 2019, with stated plans to revitalize it.
The firm has filed a development application seeking to rezone the property to a planned-unit development, with plans to eventually demolish about 120,000 square feet of the 138,000-square-foot building.
The Worthington Municipal Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board is scheduled to review the application Thursday, Sept. 24.
No formal action is expected to take place initially so details of the proposal could be studied and refined, the news release said.
The High North project likely will go before the MPC/ARB multiple times before a vote occurs, the release said. If recommended for approval by the MPC, the PUD ultimately would go to Worthington City Council for consideration, the release said.
Plans call for a phased approach to redevelop and revitalize the more than 15-acre property southwest of the Interstate 270 and U.S. Route 23 interchange.
Phase 1 plans call for the demolition of a portion of the mall’s northern and western sides to make room for the construction of up to 125,000 square feet of office space and an outdoor plaza.
The office building would be situated on the northern edge of the property and would be up to 10 stories tall, with a structured parking garage on the lower levels.
The mall’s restaurant and retail space on the eastern portion of the mall would remain.
If phase 1 were successful, phase 2 plans could include a second office building, a boutique hotel and additional retail-restaurant space, according to the release.
The city has been pursuing a project like this, with class A office space, to help attract and retain businesses and create nearby amenities for employees, David McCorkle, Worthington’s economic-development director, said in the release.
In a letter proposing the renovation, Direct Retail Partners described the changes as essential to saving the 46-year-old development.
While much of the mall appears occupied, Direct Retail Partners described the property as 45% “economically vacant.”
The mall’s 34 tenants include Talbots, Panera, Orvis, Kenneth’s Hair Salon, First Watch, Aladdin’s Eatery, Piada, Howard Brooks Interior and Lume Family Eyecare. One of the mall’s longest tenants, Urban Baggerie, recently closed.
Direct Retail Partners said the previous owners’ renovation opening the mall helped tenants on the east side of the property – most of them restaurants – but that the rest of the mall struggles from a tired design.
“Unfortunately, the performance of retailers on the western side of the mall and those with interior access only is dismal,” Direct Retail Partners wrote in a letter accompanying its proposal. “The poor performance of these tenants is the result of an outdated design that limits visibility and creates a poorly defined vehicular and pedestrian flow throughout the property. Without significant design improvements, it is anticipated that the interior corridor of the mall will need to be closed to eliminate the financial drain on overall operations.”
The company noted, however, that the success of some tenants and the mall’s high-traffic location off two major arteries make it ripe for a turnaround.
“Indoor malls that are in superior locations and markets like the Shops have been successfully revitalized by converting them to mixed use ‘live, work, play’ developments,” the letter said.
Even though office space is struggling now during the pandemic, Direct Retail Partners said Worthington has a shortage of new class A office space. The company will find itself competing for office tenants with a new development, the Worthington Gateway, rising immediately across the street on the site of a former Holiday Inn.
The Columbus Dispatch reporter Jim Weiker contributed to this story.