Bob Loversidge, president and CEO of Schooley Caldwell Associates, discusses his firm's first impressions of The Ridges during a public meet and greet held Tuesday, June 10.
Jun 12, 2014
By Bethany Venable
The Ridges Master Plan Committee meet and greet session held Tuesday evening to introduce the Ohio University and Athens communities to the newly-selected Ridges Master Plan consulting architectural and engineering firm opened with a request for ideas and information.
“This plan is going to be successful if it’s going to be of this University and of this place, not if we sit up in Columbus and draw it,” explained Bob Loversidge, president and CEO of Schooley Caldwell Associates (SCA). “Everybody in this room has been thinking about this in more detail than we have for longer than we have, so we want to get caught up.”
Members of SCA and partnering landscape architecture firm MKSK shared examples of their previous historic preservation, including the Ft. Hayes Metropolitan Education Center in Columbus and four state capitol buildings. They walked participants through some of the evaluation process they take with a site, existing buildings and surrounding lands. They assured community members that The Ridges’ buildings are in good shape, despite broken windows and holes in the roofs. But most emphatically, they asked for the public’s input.
“This project is about transformation,” said Loversidge. “It’s up to all of us to determine what that will be.”
That message was reassuring to Tom O’Grady, president of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. O’Grady says he has been interested in the University’s use of The Ridges since OHIO acquired the property in the 1980s.
“I know that there are a lot of people in the community that are pretty excited about the new discussion that seems to be taking place. I’ve heard the term ‘partnership’ come up repeatedly between the University and the community and I’m excited about that,” said O’Grady.
Around 50 people from Ohio University and the Athens area attended the meet and greet, which was held at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs in Building 21 of The Ridges. Loversidge commented it was appropriate that the meeting take place there, as SCA had led the renovation efforts of the building some 14 years ago.
The former site of the Athens Lunatic Asylum has been the focus of much conversation since President Roderick J. McDavis appointed an advisory committee to provide feedback and advice to The Ridges Master Plan Committee, which is charged with crafting an updated master plan document for the buildings and surrounding lands known as The Ridges. Approximately 750,000 square feet of building space and nearly 700 acres are included in the site, making the location ripe for possibilities to support the University’s mission and play a part in community life in Athens.
Alyssa Bernstein, a philosophy professor at OHIO, has lived in Athens for 12 years. She offered up several ideas to SCA during the meet and greet, including integrating private businesses, such as a fine dining restaurant or café. Bernstein said she imagined capitalizing on the beautiful views and outdoor spaces would be beneficial when considering possible future uses.
“It’s something that would make Athens even more of a jewel,” said Bernstein.
“What else should we know about Athens?” asked Campus Planner Sarah Richardson, who is a senior associate at MKSK. “What makes this place so special?”
Several attendees pointed out the recreational uses of The Ridges land for hiking, trail running and biking. Discussions about uses for renewable energy and sustainable, self-controlled living complexes also cropped up during the session. The historical significance of The Ridges and its long-standing ties to the Athens community were especially emphasized during the public meeting.
“The Ridges used to be the county’s largest employer,” said Pam Callahan, an Athens citizen and a member of The Ridges Advisory Committee. “It was important to the community. It was a place that united the villages and the communities and the county.”
The connection between The Ridges, Ohio University and Athens is physically evident as well, pointed out City of Athens Planner Paul Logue.
“'Athens' is stamped all over these bricks,” he said of the millions of locally-produced bricks visible at The Ridges, as several attendees nodded in agreement. Logue serves as a city representative on The Ridges Master Plan Committee and The Ridges Advisory Committee.
Three additional public forums are planned for August, November and February. The dates of these forums will be announced in Compass.
Tom O’Grady perhaps best summed up the sentiment of Tuesday’s public session when he offered what would be the last of the public comments made during the meet and greet.
“I’d like to compliment the University administration who put the committees together who selected you guys,” he said to the SCA and MKSK representatives. “This could grow to be the best thing that ever happened between the University and this city.”
SCA has established an e-mail address to field input and feedback during The Ridges Master Plan 2014 Update process. Bob Loversidge encouraged participants to share their ideas and information by e-mailing the firm at TheRidges@sca-ae.com.