The Ridges Advisory Committee met last week to hear updates from the Ohio University administration on several projects at The Ridges, including a consideration to contract with a private partner to create a new café at Lin Hall, and a “non-binding” request for proposals from private developers to renovate Ridges Buildings 2, 3 and 4 for housing or other purposes.
The Committee – a group consisting of community volunteers chaired by two OU administrators – also took a tour of Ridges Buildings 13, 14 and 18 during that meeting on Oct. 23. Those buildings are being renovated to become office space for a variety of OU administrative offices, as well as the OU Police Department. The university has invested a significant amount of money and planning efforts in recent years to begin to bring more life back to the old Athens Asylum/Athens Mental Health Center complex of buildings located at The Ridges.
The cost of the Buildings 13, 14 and 18 project has increased since The NEWS last reported on it. According to a copy of the university’s presentation given during that meeting, the project – originally budgeted at $15.3 million – is now projected to cost $16.4 million, because of “unforeseen concealed ventilation shafts” and “unanticipated restoration of deteriorated plaster” needed in the building, as well as the flooring substrate being in poor condition. That project is expected to be completed by this coming February, according to the presentation.
In other news, the university has finished construction on a walkway up to The Ridges from the pedestrian tunnel under Ohio Rt. 682, adjacent to the Richland Avenue roundabout.
Meanwhile, a $600,000 project to repair the “circle roadway” around the main complex of buildings at The Ridges is set to be complete in late November, and will involve “rebuilding the west portion of Ridges Circle with a concrete surface, while salvaging intact bricks for use in maintaining the brick surface in front of the historic Kirkbride buildings and elsewhere on The Ridges,” according to a release from OU about the meeting.
A project to demolish Ridges Building 20 and build a parking lot for Buildings 13, 14 and 18 – costing about $1.84 million – is set to be complete in March, a month after the total Ridges Building 13, 14 and 18 project is set to be complete.
There’s also an approximately $2.45 million project in utilities “decentralization” and other site preparation that needs to happen to help the renovated buildings function properly.
The university is also hoping to replace the roof of Ridges Building 33 at a cost of $925,000, and Ridges Building 37 at a cost of $850,000 by January 2020, while completing a larger, $5 million project to improve the heating and cooling system and building envelope of the Konneker Research Center, located just below the water tower at The Ridges.
IN OTHER NEWS, THE COMMITTEE heard an update on new draft guidelines for The Ridges’ “Tier 1” conservation land – a large tract of land located on the top of the green, rolling hills to the southwest of the main Athens Asylum buildings and to the northwest of Dairy Lane, south of the Ridges Land Lab. This is an area that’s popular with local hikers, birders and dog walkers, who typically leave their vehicles in a small parking lot along Dairy Lane, near OU’s composting plant.
The draft rules propose keeping the land available for academic uses and recreation, with pets allowed on leash, but banning development of permanent structures, camping, wood-cutting, and bicycles and motorized vehicles (basically the current rules). There would be a small portion of land allowable for development, but it would be limited to the area immediately surrounding the university’s composting facility.
The university also discussed developing an “outdoor museum” with educational signing to install at “key points” of the existing trails system at The Ridges, according to the release.
Meanwhile, OU Director of Real Estate Dominick Brook said in the release that the university intends to issue a request for qualifications for a private partner to operate a café out of Lin Hall – in the main building of the Athens Asylum complex – to provide “lunch options and hot drinks in a casual setting.” The Kennedy Museum of Art is located on the first floor of Lin Hall, which formerly served as the Mental Health Center/Asylum’s main administration building.
The university is also planning to issue a non-binding request for proposals for developers with ideas on how they could renovate Ridges Buildings 2, 3 and 4, on the west side of the Asylum complex, likely for use as housing, although there’d be opportunity for “mixed uses,” according to the release.
The presentation does note that community needs identified by the university include “outcomes from affordable and senior housing studies.” The university previously conducted a “high-level space plan” for those buildings that considered the impact of renovating the buildings to house 60-plus apartments, OU Associate Vice President for Planning Shawna Bolin said in a statement provided by an OU spokesperson Tuesday.
“It is not a formalized plan, however, and any public/private partnership we submit will ask respondents to propose their own layouts and plans,” Bolin said.