Oct. 18, 2007
By George Mauzy
Ohio University recently formed a new committee whose mission is to find the best use for the Oasis building at the intersection of Park Place and University Terrace.
The building has been idle since the university closed the restaurant and convenience store in November 2006 because the new Baker University Center, Alden Library's Cafe Bibliotech and a Grab-n-go with extended hours all would be within a block.
All of the former Oasis workers, including students, were offered equivalent jobs on campus, but the Oasis building was not put to new use because major repairs to its infrastructure and utilities were needed.
Since the building was not included in the university's recently completed 10-year capital plan because of higher construction and renovation priorities on campus, the decision was made to form a committee that would develop a plan for its use. The university is hoping the location will attract a tenant willing to bring the building and a new purpose to life.
"While we're not going to sell the building, the committee hopes to find a tenant for it in order to generate revenue and see it renovated so that it isn't an eyesore anymore," said John Kotowski, committee chair and associate vice president for facilities. "Specifically, we will look for a lessee who can open a business that benefits our faculty, staff and students."
The committee, which consists of several university administrators and two students, met for the first time. Kotowski said its first likely task is to send out a request for interest to businesses and city leaders in the region within the next two months. If it garners serious interest, the committee will issue a formal request for proposals.
"This building could be used for many different businesses," Kotowski said. "We are not only looking for ideas and input from potential lessees, we also plan to ask students what types of businesses they would like in that location."
The Ohio University Foundation bought the Oasis building from a private owner in 2002 for $592,250, after recognizing that it was in a prime location that probably would not come up for sale again in the near future. After making a few minor enhancements such as fresh paint and some new equipment, Dining Services operated the restaurant until its closing.
After the closing, Dining Services submitted a business proposal to the university to operate the Oasis building as a grocery/convenience store that specializes in natural and organic foods not sold at other campus locations. The store would have offered nonalcoholic beverages, light food items and wireless Internet access.
After careful consideration of its budget, Dining Services decided not to pursue the grocery store concept because of enhancements needed in its dining halls operation, which is its core mission.
"When we realized that the cost of making the necessary renovations to the Oasis building to bring it up to code would exceed $2 million, we made the decision to invest that money elsewhere," said Assistant Vice President for Auxiliary Services Christine Sheets.
Dining Services continues to pay interest on the loan, utilities and property taxes to The Ohio University Foundation for the Oasis building.
According to Athens city phone directories, the building housed the Oasis from 1980 until its closing. Since the 1960s, it also has been used as a laundry and men's clothing store. It was used as a residence as recently as the 1940s.