(Logan Riely/WOUB)

OU Trustees Discuss Park Place Future

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Ohio University officials are beginning the planning stages of taking the Park Place corridor into a new role on campus.

The OU Board of Trustees heard from university planner Shawna Bolin and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit about the timeline and strategy going into efficient space usage on the street. The street is home to the former presidential residence, which was vacated by President Roderick McDavis for a house on Coventry Lane, currently being leased from Ohio Realty by the university.

Bolin and Benoit presented the Park Place strategy at Thursday’s Joint Academic and Resources Committee meeting. The discussion came as part of the 2016 Comprehensive Master Plan, a six-year forecast for construction and renovation priorities on main and regional campuses.

“We have had a lot of space requests for student needs,” Bolin said.

Analysis of Park Place focused on increased student pedestrian patterns over the last ten years which presents “an opportunity to improve not only open spaces in the campus center, but also improve the efficiency of space usage in facilities that front the boulevard,” Benoit said in a memo to the trustees.

Benoit and Bolin both cited the relocation of Baker University Center as a cause for the increased pedestrian traffic on Park Place.

The former president’s residence, 29 Park Place, and the carriage house behind it were identified in documents presented to trustees as facilities with “opportunities to expand student program needs.”

Also included in that list were Alden Library, Baker University Center and the lot at the top of Morton Hill that formerly housed the Oasis.

Opportunities for facilities were also identified at 31 Court Street, Crewson House, Lindley Hall and Chubb Hall.

The next steps to identify the best uses for Park Place will involve a “working group,” including community members, campus representatives and possibly officials from the City of Athens, Bolin told the trustees.

Bolin said a partnership with the city would “encourage vitality” of College Green and expand outdoor activity for students. The university would need to partner with the city to “assess vehicular circulation needs” and to help prioritize the space for student activity.

In the next fiscal year, the university will be establishing a working group, before reviewing existing conditions of Park Place and conducting a campus-wide poll on “program need opportunities.”

The year after, officials plan to prioritize the program needs, test ideas and have campus and community workshops. By April of 2018, a draft of recommendations is planned, along with a public forum and final approval from the trustees.