Friday, May 25, 2018

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Workshop participants place stickers next to images of development options.

Photo courtesy of: Annie Laurie Cadmus


Continuum questions allowed participants to consider their views on opposing statements.

Photo courtesy of: Annie Laurie Cadmus


During a word association exercise, participants supplied three words or phrases they felt answered targeted prompts about The Ridges.

Photo courtesy of: Annie Laurie Cadmus

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Public workshop generates ideas, opinions for future Ridges uses

Stickers, photographs, colored pencils and sticky notes all helped guide the conversation Monday evening at a workshop designed to solicit public ideas for future uses of Ohio University’s buildings and property at The Ridges.

The public workshop, held at The Ridges in Building 21, was facilitated by The Ridges Master Planning Committee and representatives from the planning and design consulting teams of Schooley Caldwell Associates (SCA), and MKSK. The Ridges Master Planning Committee is charged with developing The Ridges Master Plan Update 2014 document. The document will detail uses for the buildings and lands at the former Athens Lunatic Asylum that will support the University’s academic mission and provide opportunities for the Athens-area community. The master planning committee is made up of representatives from both the University and the Athens area.

“Input from members of our community is essential to this planning process,” said Joseph Shields, co-chair of The Ridges Master Planning Committee. “Good ideas can come from many directions, and we want to make sure these perspectives inform the recommendations that ultimately emerge in our report.”

Around 40 people participated in the workshop, including Athens community members, University employees and members of The Ridges Advisory Committee. The advisory committee is tasked with providing feedback and advice to The master planning committee during the master planning process. The Ridges Advisory Committee is made up of six University and community representatives.

Workshop participants engaged in five different activities, each designed to take about 10 minutes. These activities included:

  • A word association exercise where participants were prompted by phrases such as “Three things The Ridges is NOT…” and “Three phrases I hope describe The Ridges after redevelopment are…”
  •  A panel of images representing different landscape, architecture, parking and mixed-use development options. Participants were given green stickers to place next to images representing concepts they would like to see implemented, and red stickers for those they would oppose seeing at The Ridges.
  • Continuum questions: two opposing statements connected by a line appeared on a poster and participants were asked to mark where on the continuum they believed the answer stood. For example, one end may say “Restore large open lawn in front of Kennedy Museum” while the other says “Provide adequate parking near the front door.”
  • A mapping exercise in which participants received a blank map of The Ridges and were asked to designate with different colors buildings that contribute to the essence of The Ridges, those that do not and any particular areas that are especially important.
  • A question and answer exercise that allowed participants to write down their answers to six targeted questions on sticky notes that were then posted under the question prompt for display.

 “I like it. Because it’s not heavy duty, you can give an impression and that’s it,” said Sherry Klingaman, a member of the Athens County Historical Society who says she has had an interest in The Ridges for the majority of the nearly 40 years she’s lived in Athens. “I think they’re asking for good information from the public. I’m a person that doesn’t want this to turn into a total University place. I want to see what they’re talking about as the overview.”

Chris Henry, a preservation activist and community member, agreed with Klingaman that the workshop allowed for direct conversation and idea generation.

“I think that it’s nice that they’ve invited people for these discussions and talked about what they’re seeing…I’m very happy about the involvement so far,” Henry said.

One of the workshop’s participants has already had a hand in some transformation that took place at The Ridges. Adrienne Nagy says she is part of a group working to rehabilitate the cemeteries located on the property. The cemeteries are not part of the land owned by the University and are property of the Ohio Department of Mental Health. Nagy said she enjoyed the unrestricted flow of the exercises.

“It was better than I expected. I think they were able to draw things out of people that we would not have been able to formulate on our own. The methods they used were excellent,” Nagy said.

Now the consulting firms will take the many stickered posters, colored maps and sticky notes of ideas and examine them for themes, says Rob Smith, project manager with SCA.  “All ideas will be reviewed for consideration with more emphasis given to the common responses. We look forward to considering some of the new ideas that were suggested.”

An additional public forum is scheduled for Oct. 1. This event will allow the consulting firms to share ideas with the public and answer any questions. Details of the event will be published in Compass.

Anyone with ideas, concerns, questions or comments regarding The Ridges Master Planning process may reach out to SCA directly through an e-mail address set up specifically for the project: TheRidges@sca-ae.com.