The Ohio University Board of Trustees met on Jan. 19 to discuss a variety of topics including the new updates within the Ridges Development Plan.
The vision for the plan is for it to expand the recreational benefits of the Ridges, provide more housing options for the Athens community and preserve the property.
The plan that was presented to the Board highlights the outline for the seven to 10-year, $200 million plan to rehabilitate the Ridges and the land surrounding it. According to the meeting’s agenda, the university has donated over $28 million for the Ridges’ upkeep and renovations since 2015.
For a more financially feasible strategy, the Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Community Building Partners suggest using a New Community Authority, or NCA, to assist in the coordination of construction and financing of the development.
From there, the development will be funded from public-private investments that will attract private development partners. The Board approved the resolution and is now pursuing the establishment of an NCA.
Of the 700 acres surrounding the Ridges, less than 100 acres will be developed once the plan is completed. According to the plan, the remaining land will be used for ecological uses, like hiking trails and research.
Dominick Brook, director of real estate at OU, found that after years of contemplation, the development plan will result in the best outcome.
“Many stakeholders within Ohio University and the surrounding community have worked closely with the Ridges Development Advisors during the past two years as this plan has been developed,” Brook wrote in an email. “While there are still many obstacles to overcome and details to be determined, this plan provides the highest chance of success of all options that have been considered since the creation of the Framework plan in 2015.”
The approval of the plan by the Board signifies the possibility of a renewal in the value the Ridges provides to the university and lessens its financial strain on the university, Brook said.
“Ohio University will benefit from new vibrancy in the historic campus that houses the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and part of the College of Fine Arts, as well as the lifting of a major financial burden on the University,” Brook wrote in an email.
In the development plan, it is mentioned that recent studies have shown that there is a large variety of people in the area who are in need of housing.
“This includes students, OU staff, seniors, artists, alumni and families,” according to the “DRAFT Memo” for the January Board of Trustees meeting. “With the size of the Ridges and master planning potential, the Ridges can meet the particular needs of each of these subgroups.”
The current plan includes proposals that would increase housing in a wide variation, including the construction of affordable senior housing, affordable homeownership and student and multi-family housing. Overall, there would be nearly 720 new housing units.
“The broader community will benefit from the rehabilitation of historic buildings that mean so much to many in the local area, as well as new senior and attainable housing that is lacking in the city," Brook wrote in an email.
Mia Citino, an OU Student Trustee and junior studying environmental studies, said she believes the development plan will be a positive change to the Ridges.
“Although, I don't speak for the board, my view as student trustee is that the Ridges Development Plan is an exciting way to revitalize and preserve historic buildings that are currently unused to serve the Athens community and compliment Ohio University’s use of the area,” Citino wrote in an email.
Citino also shared that she is not the only one on the Board who is eager to see the outcome of the plan.
“I will add that the Board voted 9-0 in favor of this resolution,” Citino wrote in an email. “I think we are all hopeful that this process will lead to exciting possibilities for the community.”
Despite the plans for the development of the Ridges, conservation of the land surrounding it is a fundamental part. The plan includes the restriction of use of certain land and buildings in order to maintain and protect it.
According to the Board’s most recent agenda, 2023 is a critical year for the Ridges development. Following the Board’s approval of the plan, the next steps are to gain support of the NCA from the Athens City Council and Athens County.