Ohio University Looking To Stabilize Some Ridges Buildings Before Winter

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Ohio University may be spending around $300,000 before winter to stabilize buildings at The Ridges to prevent any further damage while a master plan is being developed for the former mental health center.

Schooley Caldwell Associates and MKSK, the firms hired by OU earlier this year to aid in the development of a new master plan for the buildings and grounds, held a public planning meeting on Monday evening at The Ridges.

Community members were asked for their input on potential design elements, ranging from landscaping and water features (such as fountains) to parking lots. Attendees also gave their input on potential uses for the site and buildings.

Some of the suggestions written by participants included demolishing Buildings 19 and 20, getting rid of the haunted stigma and adding an observatory, restaurant and a museum dedicated to the history of the former Athens Mental Health Center. Other suggestions for the site included a retirement community, a health and wellness center, a bed and breakfast, special events center and an expanded location to house the Athens County Historical Society and Museum.

Some Athens County Historical Society and Museum board members were present during Monday’s meeting wearing new T-shirts designed by local artist Sandy Plunkett and featuring a drawing of the Athens Asylum. The shirts read “Athens Asylum Est. 1868. Heritage worth preserving.” Shirts and posters featuring the design are now on sale at the historical society.

Guests were also asked to color code a map of the buildings at The Ridges to depict which buildings were most important to preserve.

After participants gave their input through the activities, OU Planner Shawna Bolin announced that Schooley Caldwell Associates had put together a stabilization package of recommended projects for the university to tackle to prevent further deterioration — particularly water damage — of key buildings. Bolin said the cost for those projects — which include items like roof repair and window blocking — is estimated at $300,000. On Monday, she said the university was checking to make sure the funds are available for the projects to be completed before winter.

The Ridges Advisory Committee, which is working alongside The Ridges Master Plan Committee, will meet on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. in Baker University Center (room number still to be determined). Also on Oct. 1 from 4-6 p.m., SCA will hold another public forum in Building 21 at The Ridges to announce its initial recommendations.