After years of planning and public pushback, the city of Worthington is readying a section of East Wilson Bridge Road for potential office development.

This week, Worthington City Council approved the rezoning of 6.32 acres of land from low-density residential to professional office space. Seven properties — located at 127, 133, 139, 145, 155, 163 and 173 E. Wilson Bridge Road — are now zoned for professional office space.

No specific development is planned for the property, but Matt Greeson, Worthington’s city manager and a member of the city’s Community Improvement Corp., said sometimes cities need to assemble parcels of land to encourage redevelopment and stimulate economic growth in areas where it has not occurred.

The Community Improvement Corp. owns four of the sites in question; their purchase was approved by Worthington City Council in 2018 as part of the long-term plan for the corridor’s development. The other properties have a variety of owners, according to the Franklin County Auditor.

The rezoning decision faced resistance from some residents.

On Oct. 28, the city’s Municipal Planning Commission reviewed and recommended denial of the proposed rezoning in a unanimous vote.

At Monday’s council meeting, residents said the rezoning would have a negative impact on nearby residential neighborhoods, could cause traffic concerns. The land, some argued, would be better used to combat the area’s housing shortage.

“We think there’s an opportunity to help address that issue by building patio homes, for example, on the CIC properties to increase density at scale and retain the successful buffer neighborhoods have along Wilson Bridge Road corridor,” Tom Barrett, an area resident, said during the meeting.

Worthington City Council approved the rezoning in two separate votes, one 6-1 in favor of rezoning one group of properties and the other 5-2 for the second group.

Worthington Economic Development Director David McCorkle told Columbus Business First the road is already a commercial corridor. He also said there are limited opportunities to create parcels that generate new income tax revenue to support the city’s tax base, giving this property more potential.

“I think East Wilson Bridge Road is a real opportunity for the city,” McCorkle said.

McCorkle said the rezoning is consistent with a plan the city approved a decade ago, which called for the rezoning and redevelopment of properties along the corridor into both medium-density housing and office space.

Seven other spaces — located at 199, 207, 217, 227, 235, 247 and 261 E. Wilson Bridge Road, totaling 5.74 acres of land — were rezoned this week from low-density residential to medium-density residential.

The newly zoned land is near two other upcoming Worthington developments: High North and Worthington Gateway.

The Worthington Gateway mixed-used development — which will include two, one-story buildings with retail and restaurant space, two, two-story buildings and a four-story building — began construction in August and is expected to be ready for its first tenants by summer 2022.

High North was approved in April 2021 and calls for redeveloping the Shops at Worthington Place into a mixed-use space, including a 10-story building.

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