University Community

OHIO incorporates community feedback, shares updates and next steps for Ridges Development Strategy

Ohio University hosted its third town hall discussion about The Ridges Development Strategy on Friday, March 24. The meeting was open to the entire University and Athens community. 

The town hall, the latest installment of OHIO’s community discussion focusing on The Ridges Development Strategy, provided a look back at the community feedback that was received during the previous two University and community town hall events. It also shared an informational overview of the Development Plan’s next steps for review and approval.  

“This is a very exciting time for our community because we’ve been able to come together to create a collaborative plan that’s truly viable and can save this historic area,” said Associate Vice President for University Planning Shawna Wolfe. ”It’s been a long journey, and our collective focus has always been on maintaining the vibrancy, history and legacy of this valuable space.”

The core goal of the Development Strategy, which has continued to adapt and change through a combination of stakeholder feedback and the evolving needs of Ohio University, Athens and the surrounding region, is to further advance the overall implementation of the Ridges Framework Plan and to seamlessly integrate into the existing fabric of the surrounding community.

Wolfe noted that one of the core strengths of The Ridges Development Strategy is that it has been built upon a foundation of listening; she reiterated that the Plan will continue to grow and evolve as a result of continued listening.

Ohio University Director of Real Estate Dominick Brook agreed with Wolfe’s assessment and reiterated that listening and collaboration have served as the foundation for the Ridges Development Advisors, a partnership between Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Community Building Partners, as they’ve engaged in numerous planning, research and stakeholder engagement activities to help identify the development opportunities over the past 18 months,

“What we’re striving for is a plan that meets, or exceeds, the goals of the Framework Plan and builds upon the work that began at The Ridges in 2015,” Brook said. “The Ridges Development Strategy not only takes a realistic look at the challenges across this historic space – it also highlights the numerous available opportunities that can help meet the specific needs as identified by both the University and the surrounding community.”

Ridges Town Hall: Feedback Highlights

The University hosted multiple town hall discussions for both the Athens and University communities on February 21. During each meeting, the hallways outside of the meeting area were lined with numerous posterboards that visualized the history and development opportunities at The Ridges.

All attendees were invited to share feedback, ask questions and provide comments to the University and Community Building Partners to take into consideration.

Attendees overwhelmingly shared that the development of age-friendly (senior) housing and commerce spaces (specifically food/grocery), along with ensuring the protections of The Ridges Land Lab and other identified conservation land to allow for continued community hiking, birdwatching, research and other recreational activities, to be included as part of the future that they envision for The Ridges.

“Much of the land across The Ridges is beloved for nature and recreational purposes, and today’s Development plan proposes to protect 600 (out of a total of approximately 700) acres – this means that we would not allow any development on that land,” Brook said. “The walking trails will remain; the Land lab will remain, and planned conservation easements would add additional layers of security to restrict development and ensure opportunities for nature-related activities, for everyone in our community, for decades to come.”

Wolfe shared that not only is the preservation of nature a key component of the Development Strategy, so is the structural preservation and protection of the historic Kirkbride buildings that adorn The Ridges property.

“Not one single building is slated to be demolished as part of the plan we’re talking about today,” Wolfe said.

Next Steps and the Path Forward

Both Brook and Wolfe stressed that there is still much work to be done, and that the next six to nine months will be a critical period for the future of a Development Strategy that will still need to be considered by the City of Athens, the Athens County Commissioners, the Ohio University Board of Trustees and the State of Ohio.

OHIO’s Board of Trustees previously approved a resolution to pursue the establishment of a New Community Authority (NCA) strategy during its January 2023 meeting. The next steps for the creation of the NCA, which would ultimately be comprised of representatives from both the University and Athens communities, will be considered by the City of Athens.

Members of the OHIO and Athens community who were unable to attend the town hall discussions are encouraged to submit questions, concerns or comments at

About The Ridges

The Ridges is an approximately 700-acre property owned by Ohio University sitting across the Hocking River from the University’s campus core in Athens. The property was originally opened in the early 1800s as the Athens Lunatic Asylum, and the vacant property was transferred to Ohio University by the state in 1993.

OHIO has led numerous improvement and renovation efforts since The Ridges was transferred to the University by the state in 1993, and more than $30 million has been invested since 2015 to provide numerous opportunities for the historic space to be utilized for a variety of purposes by the University, including classrooms, research labs, cultural facilities and more.

March 30, 2023
Staff reports