Construction moves ahead on schedule for The Ridges

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Lin Hall, which houses the Kennedy Art Museum, is seen in this file photo of the Ridges.
Messenger photo by John Halley


Note: This story appears in the Sunday, March 10 newspaper on Page A1.

If all goes according to plan, major construction on The Ridges is expected to be in full swing by this summer.

The first phase of the renovation begins with in Buildings 13, 14 and 18, which will become administrative offices as well as the new home for the Ohio University Police Department. Construction work is already underway, with a total budget of about $15.3 million.

Shawna Bolin, associate vice president of university planning, noted that there are plans to move into the space this time next year. Bolin was among those who spoke during a Thursday afternoon meeting of the Ridges Advisory Committee.

Members of the committee also include Andy Stone, director of Athens’ public works and city engineer; Lenny Eliason, Athens county commissioner; Christine Knisely, Athens City Council president; Pam Callahan, community member; Tom O’Grady, Southeast Ohio History Center executive director; and Deborah Shaffer, OU vice president of finance and administration. Only Shaffer was not present on Thursday, due to other obligations.

Bidding on another portion of the Framework Plan concerning Building 20 is planned for somewhere between this June through September, with construction to start in September. The plan for the building, which is currently not in use, is to demolish it and establish a parking lot and walking path from Richland Avenue leading to The Ridges. Construction for this section of the plan is expected to be completed by February 2020.

Callahan noted that during the design of the walking path, there should be some thought to what the walking experience will be like. She said that noise-producing equipment, such as outside HVAC systems or generators, should be deliberately installed away from the walking path, and that using natural materials for the path would also help with pedestrian’s experience. Bolin said that Callahan’s recommendations would be taken into account, within the limitations of the budget.

There was also discussion concerning roads at The Ridges and the use of bricks. Bolin said the bricks currently used for streets around The Ridges are slowly disintegrating; while there are plans to reuse the brick, other options for paving the roads may have to be considered.

The scope of the project would be to remove all the reusable brick still available, repair the sub-grade of the road and replace the brick. A total cost estimate for this portion of the Ridges Framework Plan is $702,000. Construction on a portion of Ridges Circle near Building 22 is planned to begin in May of this year, and completion is scheduled for October.

Demolition of Buildings 15 and 29 is also planned, with serious structural issues reported in the latter building. The two buildings mirror each other and their demolition will allow maintenance to other buildings and access to enclosed green space.

There is a broader plan to decentralize utilities at the Ridges site, which OU officials hope will eliminate issues relating to line losses and maintenance of utility tunnels. The new heating and cooling systems are expected to be more efficient, and will be installed before the winter of 2020.

Buildings 2, 3, 4 and 5 are being repurposed to become apartments. The likelihood is they will be for senior citizens, with a possibility of some being assisted living spaces. Currently, the draft plans include more than 60 apartments, each with between 1 and 3 bedrooms.

County Commissioner Eliason said the senior housing would be helpful for the housing market in Athens, which is in need for more units.

Dominick Brook, director of real estate for the university, was on hand for the meeting and called senior housing “attractive” because there are more grants and other sources of funding available to be allocated toward such projects.

Student housing for undergraduates, meanwhile, will remain closer to the “core” of campus, Bolin said.

The Ridges Advisory Committee’s opinions and plans will be presented to the OU Board of Trustees later this month.