OU prepares to start significant Ridges renovation projects

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This illustration shows the layout of buildings discussed in this article. It’s cropped from a larger graphic that OU previously released.


Ohio University is moving forward with several projects to renovate and repair facilities at The Ridges, with the first phase of a $13.2 million renovation project starting soon on the east wing of the old Athens Asylum’s main building. Efforts are slated to begin next year to repair the brick “circle” roadway that surrounds the building.

The main phase of the university renovation project for Ridges buildings 13, 14 and 18 on the main building’s east side won’t start until March 2019. However, OU has added an “early abatement” package to that project that the university is ready to start work on this October.

That will include removal of “hazardous material” from the buildings and other repair work before the university starts major renovation efforts inside, according to an article on OU’s Compass website, and a presentation provided to The NEWS that was shown to members of OU’s Ridges Advisory Committee last Wednesday.

The rest of the renovation project are scheduled to start in March 2019 and conclude in spring 2020, with a variety of Athens campus departments set to move into the building then. Buildings 13, 14 and 18 are physically connected, composing the east wing of the main Athens Asylum building; the central building in the sprawling structure once served as the asylum/mental health center’s main administration building; it now houses OU’s Kennedy Museum of Art.

The university plans to move various administrative units to Buildings 13, 14 and 18 in an effort to reduce the total amount of space its administrative offices take up, and to free up buildings elsewhere on the Athens campus for academic uses.

Once the project is completed, the OU Police Department likely will move to the building (largely taking up Building 13’s first floor), as well as various finance, architecture and construction, and budget planning offices. The College of Fine Arts will retain space on the third floor of the buildings.

Meanwhile, Chief Facilities Officer Steve Wood said during the meeting, according to the Compass article, that the west section of the “circle” roadway around The Ridges needs to be repaired and replaced (a $700,000 project is being planned to do just that).

“The Ridges Circle is currently home to a failing section of roadway that includes significant rutting of the brick course, shattered stone curbing and potholes,” Wood said. “Standard repair techniques are no longer feasible, and the area requires full depth reconstruction.”

According to the Compass article, members of the advisory committee suggested that despite the repairs, the roadway should retain its brick composition to maintain the “historic aesthetic of the area” – Wood apparently said he “wholeheartedly” agreed.

“The project’s ultimate goal is to correct the roadway’s existing deficiencies via a concrete base that will allow for future brick placement to match the existing roadway,” Wood said. “The brick placement could be completed as part of the current project or one in the near future.”

Additionally, a $2.8 million project to demolish Building 20 – adjacent to buildings 13, 14 and 18 – likely will start in September of next year. The project will include installation of 120 parking spaces in the building’s place, and include construction of a walking path from near the Richland Avenue roundabout up the hill to the east side of The Ridges (not far from Building 20).

Building 20, unlike many of the other buildings on the historic campus, was built in 1949 as a “receiving hospital,” according to the Ridges Framework Plan created by the university. During OU’s process of gathering public input for that plan, Building 20 was identified as one of two buildings on the historic Athens Asylum campus of buildings that don’t “contribute” to the historic character of The Ridges, and actually compromises “the overall quality of the historic green.”

The university listed several other Ridges buildings or facilities with significant issues that it’s considering or otherwise planning repair projects for, according to the presentation. They include:

• Building 25 – the Konneker Research Center. According to the presentation, the building’s HVAC (heating and cooling) systems need to be upgraded, and the building’s chiller needs to be replaced, with a total cost of almost $5.3 million.

• The Ridges auditorium. The university is set to perform a “preliminary HVAC study” to explore issues with the building and consider what repairs may be needed.

• Ridges building 7. A wall has failed on the northwest side of the building, so the university is considering repairing the hole, or removing that part of the building entirely (which would allow access to a courtyard beyond the building located on the south side of the old asylum complex). Additional considerations include a roof-repair project, or to even demolish Building 15 nearby to allow access to the damaged wall.

• Ridges building 29. A floor slab has failed in this “grounds shed” located on the south side of the asylum complex. Considerations include “full-depth replacement” of the floor, or to remove the structure entirely.

• Ridges building 37. The university is considering a general “building study” for this structure, which houses OU’s Printing Resources Center and Upholstery Shop, in order to consider updating the building’s humidity-control system and its roof and windows.

None of the last three projects mentioned above has a timeline or costs established yet for that work, so it’s not clear when OU could begin to work on these buildings.