The Ridges Development Strategy is a vision to carry out the 2015 Ridges Framework Plan to preserve and develop buildings for a more purposeful alternative.
Ohio University partnered with Buckeye Hills Regional Council and Community Building Partners to execute the Ridges Development Strategy.
According to a Ridges Development Strategy slideshow created by the partners, the plan is expected to be a 7-to 10-year progression. The time frame allows for integrating development types, including senior housing, artisan live-work units, attainable home ownership and owner-occupied business opportunities.
“We don't expect any hard construction to occur (until) probably 2025 at the earliest,” Director of Real Estate Dominick Brook said.
Brook said monetary evaluations and surveying will hopefully be done by the end of the calendar year and sent to the state controlling board.
“All of these subject to outside forces that will hopefully occur in March of 2024. If they approve, then we move forward to the closing stage getting all of the deeds ready, the titles ready, and that could occur sometime in mid-24,” Brook said.
The slideshow also mentioned the plan will be an investment of over $200 million, utilizing innovative public and private financing tools.
Brook said they have exceeded $35 million for the Ridges thus far.
In June, the OU Board of Trustees approved a resolution to designate certain buildings and limited excess areas of land to prepare for the development, according to an OU staff report.
“We are currently in a preparation phase. We are surveying the land (and) we are having all the buildings and the land appraised,” Brook said. “We are building out condominium declarations, we have set up the new community authority, and that new community authority has had its first meeting.”
Before official construction begins, the state and county legislatures need to pass these plans.
“Once it has transitioned to this development entity at that stage, the true in-depth engineering occurs,” Brook said. “Everything needs to be approved by the new community authority, and they need to raise funding, get the investments ready, find the developers to actually develop the projects.”
The New Community Authority, or NCA, is a statutory body composed of community, city and developer representatives to have the ability to invest in improvements within the community district, be responsible for overseeing development and issue tax-exempt bonds and levy assessments.
“It's an organization recognized by the state of Ohio,” Athens City Council president and appointee of the NCA, Christine Knisely, said. “We've got good representation on that committee by people who know the unit, that know the Ridges, and also then we have a law firm that is assisting us to make sure we do everything that needs to be done so that we're abiding by Ohio Revised Code.”
Knisely said the NCA will bring the community and OU to work together to preserve these historic and important buildings. She also said developing new buildings will bring in possible retail enterprises and allow the community to thrive economically.
Before becoming a member of the NCA, Knisely was on the Ridges Advisory Board when she first became president of the Athens City Council.
“In 2022 is probably when some of the first discussions with the City Council occurred regarding the possibility of an entity that could be the grounding organization for accomplishing some development and redevelopment of the Ridges area,” Knisely said. “That legislation has moved through Council (and) I think there may have been an initial resolution of interest.”
The NCA will be working toward getting designs ready, which will have to go through approval for the zoning through the city’s planning commission, Knisely said.
“We will probably be, as I understand it, developing some areas for building, probably close to the Dairy Lane location and then those new buildings as they're developed and bring revenue in,” Knisely said. “That generates the money to help us begin to get the money together to do the repairs on the main Kirkbride building.”