Ridges Advisory Committee meets for final time in 2017
Members of The Ridges Advisory Committee provided their recommendation to identify the Tier 1 land outlined within The Ridges Framework Plan as conservation land and to proceed with basic renovations to Buildings 13, 14 and 18 in support of the University’s administrative relocation strategy during a meeting held December 15 in Baker University Center.
Associate Vice President of University Planning Shawna Bolin and Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate College Joe Shields brought forth the proposals to the Ridges Advisory Committee, which 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 is composed of members representing Ohio University, the City of Athens and Athens County; they report their recommendations to Ohio University’s president.
The Ridges: Tier 1 land use recommendations
The Ridges Advisory Committee unanimously moved to recommend that the Tier 1 land within The Ridges Framework Plan be identified as conservation land. Such a designation would mean that development would not occur within the Tier 1 area, with the possible exception of the immediate environs of the existing compost facility.
The Framework Plan had originally identified the Tier 1 land as a candidate location for new housing development; however, concerns later expressed by members of the community resulted in a change and the new conservation designation.
“We heard various community concerns about development on Tier 1 land at The Ridges, and we worked collaboratively to address them,” Bolin said. “One of the best parts of The Ridges Framework Plan is that it isn’t a rigid document. It allows for collaborations, contributions and approvals on future opportunities as plans for this valuable and historic area evolve.”
Both Bolin and Shields met with the concerned groups and reached out to numerous units across the University in an effort to better understand current, and future, academic and recreational uses for Tier 1 land. Input from interested parties will be used to inform development of use guidelines for the space; those guidelines will be reviewed by the Ridges Advisory Committee.
Bolin added that the planning process at The Ridges remains an ongoing process, and that feedback from both the Ridges Advisory Committee and the community will remain vital for future progress.
Renovations to The Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18
The Ridges Advisory Committee voted to endorse a recommendation to renovate Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18 as part of the University’s Administrative Relocation Project.
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.
“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 said.
In addition to its recommendation to proceed with renovations to Buildings 13, 14 and 18, the Ridges Advisory Committee also recommended the creation of a hillside pedestrian walking path and that Ridges Building 20, which was identified as a non-contributing building within The Ridges Framework Plan, be demolished.
The Committee stated that they agreed with The Ridges Framework’s designation of Building 20 as a non-contributing building that compromised the “sense of place” at The Ridges. They also relayed that replacing the building with green space and added parking for community events aligns with the Committee’s vision to make The Ridges an inviting space for everyone.
“It’s very important to us that we ensure that we’re maintaining the historic integrity of The Ridges while also ensuring appropriate pathways for accessibility,” said Ridges Advisory Committee member Pam Callahan.
During the meeting, Bolin also took a moment to provide background information regarding the academic and administrative space planning efforts taking place across OHIO’s campus – a driver for the need to invest in renovating The Ridges. 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.”
An update on possible housing options at The Ridges
Both Bolin and Shields reiterated that The Ridges Framework Plan identified multiple areas, within both currently developed and undeveloped portions of The Ridges, for potential future housing development, and that such opportunities could range from spaces for senior living to middle income housing.
Bolin also noted that, although The Ridges has been discussed as a possible site for such developments, a systematic study is needed in order to understand viable scenarios and locations within The City of Athens.
The Ridges Advisory Committee agreed that additional market feasibility studies were needed to help guide next steps and determine what housing opportunities are available.
"The Ridges is an opportunity for this, but we need to conduct planning and gather feedback in order to have a better idea of the best way to move forward,” Shields said. “Gaining a better understanding of the kind of market that we’re trying to attract is key. It will ultimately drive our funding strategy.”
The Ridges Advisory Committee’s recommendations will be provided to Ohio University’s president for further review. It is important to note that any formal construction and/or funding would not occur without the consideration and formal approval of the Ohio University Board of Trustees.
University leadership plans to schedule another meeting with The Ridges Advisory Committee in early 2018; details of the meeting will be announced in Compass; it will be open to the public.