Worthington mall owner plans major renovation



a large truck on a city street: The owners of the Shops at Worthington Place propose demolishing much of the mall and replacing it with offices. This rendering shows the proposed first office building, on the north side of the property. [Direct Retail Partners]


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The owners of the Shops at Worthington Place propose demolishing much of the mall and replacing it with offices. This rendering shows the proposed first office building, on the north side of the property. [Direct Retail Partners]

A Texas developer plans to demolish much of the Shops at Worthington Place in an effort to save the struggling mall property by converting it into a mixed-use development called High North.

Under the plan, scheduled to go before the Worthington Planning Commission on Thursday, the north and west sides of the mall eventually would be torn down, removing about 120,000 square feet of the 138,000-square-foot building.



a group of palm trees and a building: Direct Retail Partners, the Dallas firm that owns the mall, said offices are a more economically viable option for the site, at Route 23 and Interstate 270. [Direct Retail Partners]


© Provided by The Columbus Dispatch
Direct Retail Partners, the Dallas firm that owns the mall, said offices are a more economically viable option for the site, at Route 23 and Interstate 270. [Direct Retail Partners]

The mall’s owner, the Dallas firm Direct Retail Partners, plans initially to demolish the mall’s north end, about 85,000 square feet, and replace it with a 125,000-square-foot office building of up to 10 stories, including a parking garage.

In a second phase, the west side of the mall would be removed and replaced with an office building of similar size to the first, plus a 120-room hotel or a 100-unit residential building, a 30,000-square-foot office or retail building, and an outdoor plaza.

Traffic inside the 15.7-acre property would be shifted significantly, with a north-south road added through what is now the middle of the mall.



a group of people walking on the court: A courtyard and plaza would be added to the west side of the property. [Direct Retail Partners]


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A courtyard and plaza would be added to the west side of the property. [Direct Retail Partners]

The proposal comes less than a year after Direct Retail Partners acquired the mall, on the southwestern corner of Route 23 and Interstate 270. Early this year, company officials said they planned to renovate the property.



the inside of a building: Plans call for two large office buildings and smaller commercial buildings on the west and north portions of the mall. The east-facing part of the mall, and the Kroger store, shown on the right, would remain. [Direct Retail Partners]


© Provided by The Columbus Dispatch
Plans call for two large office buildings and smaller commercial buildings on the west and north portions of the mall. The east-facing part of the mall, and the Kroger store, shown on the right, would remain. [Direct Retail Partners]

The company described the changes as essential to saving the 46-year-old development.

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“Having spent a lot of time in Worthington over the past few months, it is easy to see that this property is an important part of the community, with people sharing memories of visiting the old Worthington Mall,” Direct Retail Partners Managing Principal David Watson said in a news release.

“The fact is that many indoor malls across the country are declining, including the mall here in Worthington,” he said. “Indoor malls in superior locations and markets like Worthington can be successfully revitalized by converting them to mixed use ‘live, work, play’ developments.”

Although much of the mall appears occupied, Direct Retail Partners described the property as 45% “economically vacant” and said it is operating as a Class C or D property.

The mall’s 34 tenants include Talbots, Panera Bread, 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, closed in the spring.

Direct Retail Partners said the previous owners’ renovation opening up the mall helped tenants on the east side of the property — most of them restaurants — but the rest of the mall struggles from a tired design.



a close up of a map: Direct Retail Partners plans to eventually demolish the west and north portions of the Shops at Worthington Place. [Direct Retail Partners]


© Provided by The Columbus Dispatch
Direct Retail Partners plans to eventually demolish the west and north portions of the Shops at Worthington Place. [Direct Retail Partners]

“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 redevelopment plan.



a circuit board: Two large office buildings would anchor the redeveloped Shops at Worthington Place property. [Direct Retail Partners]


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Two large office buildings would anchor the redeveloped Shops at Worthington Place property. [Direct Retail Partners]

“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.”



a person standing in front of a building: Much of the Shops at Worthington Place mall, including its center court, shown here, would be demolished under a plan to renovate the 46-year-old development. [Dispatch file photo]


© Provided by The Columbus Dispatch
Much of the Shops at Worthington Place mall, including its center court, shown here, would be demolished under a plan to renovate the 46-year-old development. [Dispatch file photo]

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.

Even though office space is struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Direct Retail Partners said that Worthington has a shortage of new premium office space.

The plan complements Worthington’s efforts to attract new office space, especially along the Route 23-Wilson Bridge Road corridor.

“There is demand for Class A office space in Worthington that we have been unable to meet,” said David McCorkle, the city’s economic-development director.

“Worthington has existing businesses that are growing and want to stay in the community but have been unable to find space. These businesses are looking for newer space with nearby amenities for their employees. This is the type of project that helps keep these employers growing in Worthington.”

The project will find itself competing for office tenants because a new development is rising immediately across West Wilson Bridge Road on the site of a former Holiday Inn.

The city’s Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board is scheduled to hear Direct Retail Partners’ request to rezone the property from commercial shopping center to “planned unit development.” Worthington’s planning department has recommended tabling the request until more information can be gathered.



a group of people sitting at a train station: The Shops at Worthington Place has struggled to draw customers inside the mall, although the outward-facing east side of the development is more successful. [Dispatch file photo]


© Provided by The Columbus Dispatch
The Shops at Worthington Place has struggled to draw customers inside the mall, although the outward-facing east side of the development is more successful. [Dispatch file photo]

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