OU is moving forward with The Ridges Framework Plan as it narrows its search for a developer

he Kennedy Museum of Art sits in The Ridges. (FILE by Isaac Hale)

Ohio University is searching for partners to develop The Ridges to move The Ridges Framework Plan forward.

OU recently released a Request for Qualifications for development partners in The Ridges, formerly known as the Athens Mental Health Center. The request was made over winter break, allowing developers to learn about the opportunities at The Ridges. It also gave developers the chance to inform the university of the firm’s qualifications. As of Jan. 9, eight firms submitted a request. The request phase is now closed.

The Ridges Master Plan is an extensive research plan that came out of an 18-month process and partnership with the City of Athens. The goal is to “rethink and enliven The Ridges,” Shawna Bolin, the co-chair of The Ridges Master Plan Committee, said.

The partnership with an outside firm is just in the beginning stages, Bolin said. She conducted an informational meeting with potential partners Monday to discuss the plan. Approximately 50 people were in attendance, including local, national and international developers.

“What we are looking at is a way to implement the recommendations of The Ridges Framework Plan, and (the meeting was) just an informational exercise that’s occurring on Monday in the process of gaining an understanding of potential developers’ interest in those recommendations,” she said.

Since acquiring The Ridges, OU has made significant progress with utilizing the space for programs such as the Voinovich School and Konneker Research Center, Bolin said.

“Several things we’ve done, however, (are) without the budget required to maintain continued renovations of the property,” she said. “We need to explore opportunities like development to understand how to continue those types of renovations.”

A public forum has yet to be held to inform citizens about the plan, but Bolin said she intends to conduct one when there is more definite information on what the next steps will be.

“There’s a real focus on preserving the historical character of the buildings, especially with the older buildings,” Joe Shields, the co-chair of the committee, said. “That was well received.”

The university plans to develop on no more than 100 of the 700 total acres in The Ridges in addition to what has already been developed, Bolin said.

“It’s important to note we’re not developing the entire Ridges property,” she said. “There’s a lot of trails, a lot of great opportunities that everyone currently enjoys.”

The cost of the project is not yet definite, Bolin said.

“The next step in the process is to look and construct internally,” Grant Garber, the associate general counsel to OU, said. “We got a lot of suggestions and a lot of ideas (at the meeting Monday). Our next step is to digest the feedback and look at the best way to move forward.”



 Originally published for The Post on January 12, 2016.

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