Ohio University Board of Trustees discusses investment and protection of The Ridges
The Ohio University Board of Trustees, today, discussed execution of elements outlined within The Ridges Framework Plan, a joint vision of the University and the community for the highest and best use as well as protection of historic buildings on The Ridges.
Almost 150 years since construction began on the Athens Asylum, the site now known as The Ridges represents approximately 700-acres of land, buildings, and history to the State of Ohio, Ohio University, and southeast Ohio. Since transfer of this property to Ohio University more than two decades ago, the university has made a series of investments to maintain the value of this property as an academic and community asset, with the Framework Plan, completed in 2015, providing a refreshed vision.
“The Ridges Framework Plan was a highly engaging and collaborative effort with many partners across the university and community,” said Vice President for Research and Creative Activity and Dean of the Graduate College Joe Shields. “It is exciting to see one of the key recommendations of preserving historic buildings and using them to their highest and best use move forward. I believe this will help us move other initiatives forward in the future in collaboration with the community.”
Presentations at the Board meeting outlined a proposal to renovate Ridges buildings 13, 14 and 18 to accommodate administrative offices currently located in the West Union Street Office Center and Human Resources Training Center, enabling the latter buildings to be repurposed to address critical academic needs. This scenario was endorsed by The Ridges Advisory Committee at its December 2017 meeting.
Community input embodied in the Framework Plan identified buildings 13, 14 and 18 as historically significant and a high priority for preservation, while noting the nearby Building 20 as a noncontributing structure. The plan presented to the board reflected this input, with a plan for revitalizing the historic structures while removing Building 20 to create additional green space and parking to facilitate access.
The relocation of offices to The Ridges is part of a broader strategy for cost-effective response to the university’s needs for academic and administrative space, while addressing deferred maintenance.
Milestones stemming from collaboration and investment at The Ridges include:
- The Ridges Framework Plan: The Plan includes a comprehensive evaluation of The Ridges land and its buildings, studies for potential uses and adaptability, consideration of access and integration of The Ridges with the rest of OHIO's campus, financial strategies to realize potential, and core principles that guide The Ridges planning development.
- OHIO’s Comprehensive Master Plan: Approved by OHIO’s Board of Trustees in March 2016, the plan addresses all areas of the Athens campus, including The Ridges. It incorporates elements of The Ridges Framework Plan and conceptualizes the area around the historic buildings as The Ridges Green. The Plan explores opportunities at The Ridges for academic synergies, executive education, conference spaces and other mixed uses.
- Kirkbride buildings stabilization: The project, the first identified and implemented from The Ridges Framework Plan, provided roof/gutter replacements and building stabilization work to protect historic buildings from deterioration, allowing time for long-term uses and strategies to be identified.
- The Ridges Observatory: The project resulted in construction of a campus observatory to support astronomy education and community outreach. The facility houses a historic 10-inch refractor telescope that was previously located on the roof of the Research and Technology Center (RTEC) building.
- Lin Hall HVAC and Roof: The project supplemented repairs to existing heating and cooling units with new equipment, including automated temperature and humidity controls to protect artwork stored within the building. A portion of the building, which had been utilized in the past as a milk parlor, was also renovated to provide additional artwork storage space. Repairs to the building’s roof, gutters and exterior stonework were completed as well.
- Public-Private Partnership explorations: In January 2017, the University hosted an informational meeting structured to assist potential developers to understand the development opportunities outlined in the Ridges Framework Plan. It also provided the University a chance to gain an understanding of potential developer interest. Next steps include developing projects in consultation with The Ridges Advisory Committee and other stakeholders.
Associate Vice President of University Planning Shawna Bolin stated, “This progress would not have been possible without the valuable input from the Athens and University community and the support of the Athens Mayor’s Office, City Council and University Leadership.”
About The Ridges Advisory Committee
The University regularly collaborates and consults with The Ridges Advisory Committee on items of impact and importance related to The Ridges. The committee, which is composed of members representing Ohio University, the City of Athens and Athens County, is also tasked with periodically reviewing the comprehensive land use plans for The Ridges and the University’s progress toward its implementation. The committee reports its recommendations to Ohio University’s president. The President then reviews the recommendations and presents it to the Ohio University Board of Trustees for its consideration and approval in the form of a formal resolution. University leadership will schedule another meeting with The Ridges Advisory Committee in early 2018.