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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

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Ridges Advisory Committee convenes for first meeting of Spring Semester 2019


University officials provided an update on renovation plans for Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18, the demolition of Building 20, scheduled repairs to the Ridges Circle roadway and more from Ridges Master Plan during the Ridges Advisory Committee’s first meeting of the semester, held March 7.

The committee is tasked with periodically providing feedback on the comprehensive land use plans for The Ridges and the University’s progress toward its implementation. The group is composed of members representing Ohio University, the City of Athens and Athens County; they report their recommendations to Ohio University’s president. The committee’s last meeting took place Aug. 29.

Prior to hearing updates on projects and planned renovations, Associate Vice President for University Planning Shawna Bolin and Committee co-chair Joe Shields, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shared a few recent engagement opportunities regarding The Ridges.

Bolin shared their engagement with the Southeast Ohio History Center’s speaker series, which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Athens Asylum. As part of the engagement, Bolin and Shields spoke about the Future History of The Ridges. Bolin also shared reflections on key pivotal moments that have led us to today, as well as example ideas or moments that may happen in the future. She also shared a video highlighting people’s ideas about what The Ridges may look like in another 150 years and how she would like to do another video gathering more thoughts throughout the community.

Update on renovations to The Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18
Bolin shared that this project is on schedule and that Buildings 13, 14 and 18 should be available for occupancy next March. The early abatement package is complete and bids were awardable, moving the project forward into construction.

The renovations to Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18, which were recommended by the Ridges Advisory Committee in December 2017 and formally approved by the Ohio University Board of Trustees in January 2018, are integral to the University’s Administrative Relocation Project, which enables relocation of administrative offices currently located in the West Union Street Office Center (WUSOC) so that WUSOC can be repurposed for the Russ Engineering College as a research facility.

Champlin Architecture, the design firm associated with OHIO’s historic renovations to McCracken Hall and Ellis Hall, is designing the $15.3 million project, with the office of Design and Construction managing the project.

Update on Ridges Building 20 Demolition, parking lot, & pathway
Bolin also shared an update regarding the demolition of Ridges Building 20, which is anticipated to be done on schedule by the end of the year. The project, which will also include the creation of a pedestrian pathway and the installation of new parking spaces to make The Ridges a more inviting space, is anticipated to cost approximately $2.8 million. There will also be sidewalks constructed to facilitate easier access to the front of the building, as well as better signage to help direct visitors.

The pedestrian pathway from Richland Avenue to The Ridges will provide easier pedestrian access to The Ridges. While designing the pathway between the two areas, the Ridges Advisory Committee stressed the importance of creating the pedestrian experience along the way. While the University shared that there were limited funds available, they will do all they can to enrich the pedestrian experience. Bids for the entire project are expected to be accepted in May.

Projects moving to March Board of Trustees for approval:
Bolin provided updates regarding projects at The Ridges noting key principles outlined in The Ridges Framework plan and how projects in the past, current, and future show the university’s progress towards those goals.  

Three projects that address two of the Ridges Framework Plan principles will be considered by the Board of Trustees at its March meeting. These projects include:

  • Embrace Sustainable Development: Currently, Building 20 and Building 21, which houses the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, have connected utilities. As part of the Building 20 demolition, contractors will decentralize utilities within those buildings, creating stand-alone utilities for Building 21. This will allow for more development since it will not rely on another building. This plan will be presented for consideration at the Board of Trustees meeting March 21. 
  • Identify Adaptability of Buildings/Land: Demolition of Buildings 29 and 15: This project scheduled for this year and will be considered by the Board of Trustees meeting March 21-22.
    • Building 29 currently is in poor condition. It has housed grounds equipment for some time but due to the failing structure, things have been removed. By tearing down this building, there will be improved access to the courtyard and Kirkbride facility.
    • Building 15 mirrors Building 29, and its removal will provide better access to the courtyard area, allowing for easier access to maintain other buildings. 

Ridges Circle Roadway Repair and Brick Priorities
Details were provided surrounding planned roadway repairs at The Ridges Circle, a project that was approved by OHIO’s Board of Trustees in August. Bolin commented that the Ridges Advisory Committee and Ridges Framework Plan identified historic significance of buildings, but did not prioritize or identify treatment of brick roads. The committee was asked where they think bricks should be prioritized along the circle, and they recommended that in order to keep the history and aesthetic of The Ridges, they would like to see the roadway in front of the building and along the east side of the circle where the pedestrian walkway will come up remain brick. It was also stated by the committee that if the bricks need to be replaced due to brick deterioration or capacity issue, that the University should not utilize new pavers, but rather concrete instead. Additionally, the concrete should not be stamped to look like bricks in an attempt to replicate the authenticity of the bricks.

Feedback for Housing Opportunities
University Planning and Real Estate reminded the committee of the two designated areas in the Ridges Framework Plan for housing: Rehabilitating existing facilities, and land designated as Tier 2. Bolin noted that the University is interested in meeting community needs such as senior and affordable housing. Dominick Brook, Director of Real Estate, shared his new role, designed to review and implement partnership and financing opportunities to move projects forward.

Next steps
Feedback from the Ridges Advisory Committee is to be reviewed by Planning and University leadership. Upcoming projects will be present at the March Board of Trustees meeting.