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Worthington Mall Plan Gets First Approval

Brent Warren Brent Warren Worthington Mall Plan Gets First ApprovalHigh North is the name of the proposed redevelopment of the Shops at Worthington Place, located just south of I-270 and west of High Street. Renderings by O'Brien Architects, EMH&T and Pod Design.
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Editor’s note (3/31/21): This article was updated with information about the dismissal of a lawsuit against the developer.

Worthington’s municipal planning commission voted last week to approve the rezoning of the Shops at Worthington Place, clearing the way for Dallas-based developer Direct Retail Partners (DRP) to redevelop the site.

The first phase of the plan will involve the construction of a ten-story office building/parking garage on the northern edge of the site, as well as the demolition of about 21,000 square feet of the existing mall. The mall’s central corridors – which are currently indoor spaces – will be converted into landscaped, open-air walkways.

The overall proposal has been scaled down since it was first brought before the board last fall. A planned second phase now calls for a six-story office building on the southern edge of the site (down from 10 stories in the original proposal), and a planned 10-story hotel or residential building has been removed from the proposal entirely.

The project will head next to city council, where it will be introduced at the April 5 meeting, with a public hearing planned for April 19. If it is approved by council, Worthington law calls for a 60-day “referendum period” before the project would go before the city’s architectural review board for design approval.

In addition to concerns voiced by some Worthington residents about the size and height of the original proposal, DRP was also briefly facing a lawsuit from one of its tenants.

According to a press release sent out by Atom Law Group of Chicago, Anthony Vince Nail Spa sued DRP for “breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing.”

The lawsuit alleged that DRP, in order to advance its plans to redevelop the mall, was trying to force out tenants through eviction that it would otherwise need to buy out.

Materials submitted to the city in September by DRP stated that about 45 percent of the 138,000 square feet of leasable space at the mall is “economically vacant.”

But that same month, according to the lawsuit, when Anthony Vince Nail Spa sought reduced rent from DRP – due to reduced foot traffic caused by the pandemic and the fact that the mall was actually closed to the public for about two months – the company refused on the grounds that the complex was 84 percent occupied.

The nail salon was seeking to recover more than $1 million that it invested in the property, while DRP sought to remove the case to federal court and dismiss it.

UPDATE: The case against DRP was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio on March 25. Atom Law Group did not respond to a request for comment, and a representative of DRP’s legal team declined to comment on the specifics of the case.

For more information on the High North proposal, see worthington.org.

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