Board of Trustees approves funding for the design of new residential housing on Athens campus, endorses strategy for the rehabilitation and development of The Ridges

Published: January 20, 2023 Author: Staff reports

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved funding for the design phase of new Athens campus housing construction on South Green as outlined in the Housing Master Plan during its Jan. 19-20 meetings in Athens. In addition, the Board approved a resolution allowing advisors for The Ridges Development Strategy to pursue the establishment of a New Community Authority (NCA) that would work to preserve historic buildings at The Ridges through development benefitting the local community.

The Board also received an update on the Intel Appalachian Semiconductor Education and Technical (ASCENT) Ecosystem program.

Items on the Board agenda included:

Capital budget

The Board approved several new capital projects, including a resolution that approved the design phase of a new housing facility that will include 600 additional beds on South Green to help meet residential capacity needs as outlined in the Housing Master Plan.

The design and planning phase is expected to cost approximately $14.2 million. The target opening for the new facility, which is intended to update and diversify OHIO’s housing offerings while further enhancing student engagement, wellbeing and learning, is 2026. 

Other approved projects include:

  • Addition to Putnam Hall windows replacement: The Board approved a resolution to provide an additional $972,000 to complete the project, for which $525,000 was previously approved to replace windows on the south elevation only of Putnam Hall. The $1.5 million project will now replace windows on all four elevations. This project is expected to be funded by proceeds from the University’s century bond and state capital appropriations.
  • Bentley Hall classroom refresh: The Board approved a $548,000 project that will provide a space refresh for selected Bentley Hall classrooms to improve the student experience and enhance the quality of learning spaces. This project is anticipated to be funded by central university funding.

The Ridges Development Plan

The Board approved a resolution to pursue the establishment New Community Authority (NCA) strategy that was proposed by representatives from Ohio University and the Ridges Development Advisors, a partnership between Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Community Building Partners. While the Board’s approval is an important first step in moving the overall NCA strategy forward, continued collaborations and discussions with the City of Athens, Athens County, the State of Ohio and the surrounding community will take place before the strategy can be finalized.

The establishment of a New Community Authority is a vital part of The Ridges Development Plan, which focuses on opportunities for the adaptive rehabilitation and reuse of the historic buildings at The Ridges and to best identify opportunities for future development.

In 2015, Ohio University completed the Ridges Framework Plan and has been exploring ways to rehabilitate and implement external investment for buildings and land designated for mixed use/non-university use. For the past 18 months, Ohio University and The Ridges Development Advisors, have engaged in numerous planning, research and stakeholder engagement activities to develop a structure and market compatible development opportunities that  align with the needs of the larger community as well.

During their presentation, The Ridges Development Advisors outlined multiple opportunities for the project to meet the needs of the Athens community, including senior housing, long-term workspaces for artists, affordable housing, commercial space and market-rate housing.

Additional details about The Ridges and The Ridges Development strategy is available online at: https://www.ohio.edu/ridges.

ASCENT program update

Eric Stinaff, professor and chair of physics and astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences, Scott Miller, associate dean for industry partnerships in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, and Todd Myers, chair and professor of Engineering, Technology, and Management and director of Workforce and Professional Development in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, shared an update on the progress of the Appalachian Semiconductor Education and Technical (ASCENT) Ecosystem program, a grant for $3 million from Intel that is aimed at addressing the need for a STEM-focused workforce to fuel the growing advanced manufacturing sector in Ohio. 

The group updated the Board on the progress of the ASCENT program and provided insight into curriculum development next steps and their work with numerous partner institutions to help position the Southeastern Appalachian region of Ohio to capitalize on emerging STEM opportunities. 

Ohio University (including its Athens, Chillicothe, Eastern, Lancaster, Southern and Zanesville campuses), is partnering with Belmont College, Eastland-Fairfield Career Center, Hocking College, Marietta College, Mid-East Career and Technology Center, Shawnee State University, Tri-County Career Center and Zane State College on the ASCENT program.

OHIO’s Inclusive Access Textbook Program

Chief Information Officer Chris Ament and Enterprise Learning Systems and Academic Technology Services Manager Eszti Major-Rohrer presented to the Board on the impact of OHIO’s Inclusive Access Textbook Program. The program, launched in 2018, is aimed at supporting course material affordability and access equity for OHIO students by providing students access to commercial digital course materials on the first day of class, at a cost significantly lower than market price.

During the presentation, Major-Rohrer and Ament explained how the program has saved $6.6 million for OHIO students since its launch, and an additional $5.4 million is estimated to be saved in course material costs by the end of 2026.

Regional Campus Updates

The Board approved an amendment to authorize the sale of 6.678 acres of land on the Lancaster Campus adjacent to the Lancaster City School District for use of the land as a parking lot and practice field that will service its new high school building. 

Previously, the University approved the designation of approximately 4-acres of land on the Lancaster Campus as surplus, however, after survey of the land, the acreage was calculated to be 6.678-acres. 

In other business, the Board: 

  • Received an update on the innovation and growth within the College of Fine Arts from Dean Matthew Shaftel, including how the college has grown in enrollment, strategic engagements, efficiency strategies, and new programs. During the discussion, Fine Arts students also shared their personal stories regarding how OHIO’s the new Bachelor of Film, Bachelor of Musical Theater, Master of Arts Administration, and Master of Applied Arts and Health are positively impacting their lives. 
  • Received an update from Mark Heil, vice president for finance and administration and CFO, regarding the University’s FY23 financial forecast.
  • Received an update from Director of Athletics Julie Cromer on intercollegiate athletics, highlighting how student-athletes continue to achieve historic levels of academic success and how the college athletics landscape continues to change. Multiple student-athletes also spoke to the board about their experiences and goals for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.
  • Received a spotlight presentation as part of the President’s report to the Board from Dean Mark Weinberg on the impact of the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service on the region. 
  • Received the 2022 Remediation Report.
  • Approved 19 professors for emeriti status upon retirement. 
  • Approved a new degree program, the Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, and three program name changes, the Department of Civil Engineering in the Russ College of Engineering to the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, the Center for International Studies’ Global Studies – War and Peace program to International Studies – War and Peace, and the School of Visual Communication in the Scripps College of Communication program in photography to visual communication.
  • Approved two program reviews: the Physician Assistant Practice in the College of Health Sciences and Professions and Engineering, Technology and Management in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology.
  • Approved the establishment of a quasi-endowment Ohio University fund for Appalachian Ohio student success.
  • Approved an alteration to construct a section of sewer line on University land.
  • Approved Vice President of Finance and Administration Mark Heil to serve as Treasurer to the Board of Trustees.

The complete Board of Trustees agenda from its January 19 and 20 meetings is available online at: www.ohio.edu/trustees.