City Planner Outlines Improvements to Richland Avenue

The original story can be found here in the Athens Messenger

Note: This story appears in the Friday, Jan. 11 newspaper on Page A1.

A “comprehensive plan” for the city of Athens is taking shape, with a new video series highlighting aspects of the plan and certain areas around town.

The latest video from City Planner Paul Logue features the Richland Avenue “corridor,” one of five such corridors identified by city officials — including Stimson Avenue, Union Street, Columbus Street and East State Street.

In the video, released Thursday, Logue said officials are reviewing the geography, economic development and potential land use changes on Richland Avenue, a 1-mile stretch of road connecting Pomeroy Road to Route 682.

One proposed idea is to introduce parking agreements with businesses on Richland Avenue. Although it might require a change in the city’s zoning code, the idea is to allow for existing spaces to be utilized by various entities throughout a given day. Since many businesses there are only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., they are left empty during the evening and could be used by other businesses, Logue said.

“So from (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) it can be offices for professional use, and then in the evening when all those people have gone home, that parking can be used to support, say, a restaurant,” Logue said. “We can effectively use the same parking spaces twice instead of requiring additional parking and that way we can better utilize land that is often for parking for something that better supports the economy and the taxes of Athens by substituting parking for buildings.”

He noted that the city believes there is “very little risk” in implementing such a strategy on Richland Avenue in particular, as there is no on-street parking from residential streets nearby to deal with.

Logue also suggested the city could “market” certain neighborhoods, utilizing stories and memories of local residents.

“Just as an example, the south side of Athens where Richland Avenue is, in the 1950s and prior to that, was it’s own village called Mechanicsburg, and then that village was annexed into the city of Athens,” Logue said. “From a branding standpoint, we can better tell the history of Athens by calling it perhaps Mechanicsburg and make it more of a destination that people might be interested in learning more about.”

The planner noted officials are also considering minor street improvements such as better signage.

“Although the city has put in considerable amount of resources into improving that little roadway in the past few years to make it more accommodating for pedestrians and bicyclists, we have seen issues with pedestrians and bicyclists being unaware of how to access the roundabout tunnel that goes under Route 682 if they are pedaling or walking north toward campus,” Logue said. “So we would like to better connect them to that roundabout and safely get them across the traffic.”

There may also be new sheltered bus stops added to the area, Logue said, citing a “lot of transit riders who live near or in the Richland Avenue corridor.”

The biggest changes coming to the area remain Ohio University’s plans for The Ridges. Logue said that if funding comes through, there is the possibility of a new welcome center and conference center to be located on the hill. He noted OU’s plans to move administrative offices up to The Ridges, as laid out in the university’s comprehensive plan.

OU owns property behind Campus Heights Apartments (formerly known as Carriage Hill Apartments). There have been discussions between city and OU officials, Logue said, to use that property for additional mixed-income housing.