Ridges Advisory Committee meets to discuss renovation, restoration projects at The Ridges


Members of The Ridges Advisory Committee received updates on the University’s current renovation plans for Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18 as well as other anticipated building and site improvements from Ridges Master Plan co-chairs Shawna Bolin and Joe Shields during a meeting held April 30 in Baker University Center 240.

The meeting was the last of Spring Semester 2018 for the 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 group is composed of members representing Ohio University, the City of Athens and Athens County; they report their recommendations to Ohio University’s president.

Renovations to The Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18
Bolin shared that the design phase for renovations to Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18 will begin later this month. Construction is anticipated to officially begin March 2019.

Champlin Architecture, the design firm associated with OHIO’s historic renovations to McCracken Hall and Ellis Hall, will design the $13.2 million-dollar project, with the office of Architecture, Design and Construction managing the project.

The renovations, 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.

“The renovations to Buildings 13, 14 and 18 not only allow for the administrative offices currently located in the West Union Street Office Center (WUSOC) and Human Resources Training Center (HRTC) to transition to The Ridges – they will enable WUSOC and HRTC to be repurposed to address critical academic needs,” Shields said.

Bolin also noted that she has been pleased that The Ridges Framework Plan has continued to serve as a both a flexible reference and an important guiding document for The Ridges Advisory Committee and numerous campus stakeholders.

“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 our plans for this historic area continue to progress,” Bolin said.

Such progress includes a plan to improve parking and pedestrian access, as Bolin and Shields shared that OHIO’s Board of Trustees have also approved The Ridges Advisory Committee’s recommendations to create a hillside pedestrian walking path and to proceed to demolish Ridges Building 20, which was first identified as a non-contributing building within The Ridges Framework Plan.

In December 2017, The Ridges Advisory Committee stated that they agreed with the 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 their vision to make The Ridges an inviting space for everyone.

The demolition of Building 20, creation of a pedestrian pathway and installation of approximately 120 new parking spaces is anticipated to cost approximately $2.8 million. The project design process will begin this Spring, and construction is currently slated to begin later this year.

Additional Improvements to Buildings at The Ridges
Bolin and Shields provided updates regarding additional renovation projects that are taking place at The Ridges. Such investments are intended to improve and maintain the space and existing structures within the area. The projects, the majority of which are currently in the pre-design phase, include:

  • HVAC and boiler system upgrades to Ridges Building 25 (Konneker Research)
  • The removal of an underground storage tank at Ridges Building 20
  • Exterior wall stabilization for Ridges Building 7
  • Roof replacements for Ridges Buildings 8, 25 and 32
  • Voltage Upgrades to Ridges Building 37 (Printing Services)
  • A new circuit installation within Ridges Building 33

Bolin and Shields also announced that a recent Konneker Grant provided funding for the development of a new space within Lin Hall 210 at The Ridges. The space will house a flexible lab and exhibits that will allow visitors to view room activities through floor-to-ceiling glass panels. This space and the vision for its use are the result of a collaboration between Nancy Stevens and Ed Pauley, and they and their team are currently developing plans for its first exhibit concept.

Exploring Future Opportunities within The Ridges
Bolin and Shields closed the meeting with a brief Committee workshop that focused on a discussion of future opportunities at The Ridges, including prospects for housing, recreation and development within The Ridges Tier 2 land location.

The group noted that a portion of the Tier 2 land remains ideal for commercial use, given its proximity to existing apartment structures and that this particular area is relatively flat – excess dirt was deposited on the area during construction of the Summit at Coates Run apartment complex in 2008 for the purpose of future development opportunities.

In addition to its flat area, the Tier 2 location still contains a large, open space along a potential City utilities corridor that could be suited for an eco-village and space for a sustainable housing area.

Shields stressed that appropriate stewardship of The Ridges is the University’s primary goal and that focusing on preserving existing buildings and enhancing trails is key to their long-term goals. Financial feasibility will also be an important component to future projects.

The Ridges Advisory Committee agreed that additional market feasibility studies were needed to help guide next steps and determine what housing opportunities are available. They also agreed that the University’s initial focus should be on maintaining and renovating existing, essential structures at The Ridges, particularly Kirkbride Buildings 2, 3 and 4, before turning their attention to long-term opportunities for housing or public-private partnerships. 

Additional meeting updates
The Ridges has been discussed as a possible site for retirement housing; however, both Bolin and Shields reminded the Committee that a future systematic study is essential for understanding viable scenarios and locations within The City of Athens.

"The Ridges is an opportunity for this type of important housing, but we need to conduct planning and gather feedback in order to have a better idea of the best way to move forward,” Bolin said.

The group plans to connect with other universities that have successfully enacted similar initiatives in collaboration with their local communities.

Next steps
University leadership plans to schedule another meeting with The Ridges Advisory Committee in Summer 2018.

Details of the meeting will be announced in Compass; it will be open to the public.

May 4, 2018
Staff reports