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Ridges Advisory Committee meets to discuss space planning opportunities


Members of The Ridges Advisory Committee reconvened with Ridges Master Plan co-chairs Shawna Bolin and Joe Shields for the second time this month during a meeting held May 17 in Margaret M. Walter Hall.

The meeting’s agenda focused exclusively on campus space planning efforts – a holdover topic from the group’s May 3 meeting. Further discussions involving Tier I and Tier II land options at The Ridges did not take place during the May 17 meeting.

Space planning across OHIO’s campus
Bolin provided an overview of the academic and administrative space planning efforts taking place across OHIO’s campus. She relayed that her team, and the entire University, is working to better understand the academic and administrative support space needs to ensure that there are appropriate avenues for such efforts to be accomplished in the future.

“Our primary priority is to ensure that there are cost effective solutions for required relocations while maintaining campus options for academic and student support needs,” Bolin said. “We also want to maintain swing space so that we are able to accommodate unforeseen needs.”

Bolin continued by sharing details of two current academic and student support space projects involving the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Russ College of Engineering and Technology that will ultimately serve as the centerpieces for OHIO’s new Union Street Green.

The Union Street Green imagines new occupants and site design to support University strategic initiatives – including the Campus Master Plan’s recommendation of a phased relocation of the Heritage College to Union Street Green and to define a campus gateway at West Union Street.

The Human Resources Training Center (HRTC) will be repurposed for the Phase I of the Heritage College project; doing so will provide the Heritage College with added space to meet their programmatic needs.

Bolin said that the West Union Street area, particularly the West Union Street Office Center (WUSOC), equally presents an opportunity for the University to meet the research needs of the Russ College.

“WUSOC was initially utilized as the McBee Systems Printing Service,” Bolin said. “It’s large, flexible floor plates with structural load integrity make it ideal for the type of engineering research activity that the Russ College is needing.”

Bolin clarified that that the Russ College is prioritizing WUSOC for research needs only; they will still occupy other campus facilities, including Stocker Center and the Academic and Research Center (ARC).

She also noted that the opportunity for continued adjacencies between the two colleges will allow for sustained collaborations, which have already proven successful within ARC. Furthermore, with adjacencies to OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital, future opportunities to partner with the hospital and other key stakeholders will be possible.

Administrative relocation opportunities at The Ridges
The University is working to identify alternative spaces for the administrative units that are currently housed within WUSOC and HRTC, which are prioritized for the Heritage and Russ Colleges. One potential area that is currently under exploration is a portion of the former state hospital buildings at The Ridges.

Bolin said that a compatibility study was completed as part of The Ridges Framework Plan, and the original Kirkbride buildings were identified as spaces that could support any number of flexible, creative uses.

“The Framework Plan identified the Kirkbride buildings as ‘buildings of primary significance’ that contributed to the ‘historic architecture’ of The Ridges,” Bolin said.

The University is currently working to balance the opportunities and challenges posed by the buildings’ existing structures, location and space. Based on preliminary findings, Buildings 13, 14 and 18, which constitute the east wing of the Kirkbride structure, appear to be best suited to accommodate the University’s need for administrative space.

Bolin stated that, even though much work remains before a final administrative relocation space is determined, the process is positively progressing.

She also stressed that the buildings at The Ridges are one of several possible campus locations for administrative space, and that it would be premature to assume that all current WUSOC and/or HRTC occupants would ultimately be relocated to The Ridges.

Both Bolin and Shields reiterated that they continue to appreciate the hard work and input of The Ridges Advisory Committee.

“When I look at this committee and The Ridges Framework plan, I can see the product of all of the work that each of us has been doing for years,” Bolin said. “It just proves what we can do together through planning and collaboration.”

About The Ridges Advisory Committee and future meetings
The Ridges Advisory Committee, composed of members representing Ohio University, the City of Athens and Athens County, is tasked with periodically providing feedback on the comprehensive land use plans for The Ridges and the University’s progress toward its implementation. The committee reports its recommendations to Ohio University’s president.

University leadership plans to review recent Advisory Committee feedback and will continue to schedule meetings with the group in the coming months.

Future meeting dates and locations will be announced in Compass; they will be open to the public.