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Thursday, Jul 09, 2020

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Betty Hollow, a local historian and former director of instruction at OHIO’s Academic Advancement Center, places a dot on a board to indicate how she feels about how interior spaces around Park Place are currently being used.

Betty Hollow, a local historian and former director of instruction at OHIO’s Academic Advancement Center, places a dot on a board to indicate how she feels about how interior spaces around Park Place are currently being used.

Photographer: Emily Matthews

Bradley Cohen (right), senior vice provost for instructional innovation and a member of the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group, discusses one of the exercises at the Feb. 22 planning workshop with local resident Tim Traxler.

Bradley Cohen (right), senior vice provost for instructional innovation and a member of the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group, discusses one of the exercises at the Feb. 22 planning workshop with local resident Tim Traxler.

Photographer: Emily Matthews

University Planner Shawna Bolin, co-chair of the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group, leads a presentation at the beginning of the public planning workshop held Feb. 22 at the Athens Community Center.

University Planner Shawna Bolin, co-chair of the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group, leads a presentation at the beginning of the public planning workshop held Feb. 22 at the Athens Community Center.

Photographer: Emily Matthews

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Community provides input during Park Place planning workshops


Members of the Ohio University and local communities are in the process of contributing ideas and input that will be used to develop comprehensive recommendations for the highest and best use of space along the Park Place and South Court Street corridor. 

Comprised of representatives from both the University and the City of Athens (see sidebar), the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group is seeking input from the collective Athens-OHIO community through its website , an online survey and public planning workshops that were held last week. Dozens of individuals participated in those workshops that were held Feb. 22 at the Athens Community Center and Feb. 23 in the Baker University Center Ballroom. 

University Planner Shawna Bolin, who is co-chairing the work group with Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina, kicked the workshops off by providing an overview of what the Park Place Planning Strategy is and why it is being developed, outlining opportunities for public engagement, and sharing the process’ next steps.

Bolin shared the guiding principles the work group is using in developing the Park Place Planning Strategy, including the institution’s academic strategic priorities and the guiding principles used to develop the University’s Comprehensive Master Plan, which was approved by the Board of Trustees in March 2016 and serves as a strategic roadmap for University planning and space use over the next 10 years.

“What we want to study is how to activate spaces both externally and internally for programmatic needs of the University,” Bolin said. “We have some opportunity with vacant buildings or vacant sites or maybe some sites that are underutilized. We also want to make sure the recommendations we make are made with pedestrians and their safety in mind.”

In studying the Park Place and South Court Street corridor, the work group is looking at three distinct areas:

  • Buildings that already have set programming, such as Gordy Hall, 35 Park Place, the Walter International Center, Scripps Hall and Copeland Hall. Bolin stressed that those facilities will not be holistically transformed, but the work group will consider whether the needs of the entities occupying those buildings are being met.
  • Facilities with opportunities to expand student program needs, including 29 Park Place and the Carriage House, Alden Library, Baker University Center, 31 S. Court St., Crewson House and Lindley Hall.
  • Open space improvements, including the former Oasis lot, the pathway between Alden Library and Ellis Hall, the amphitheater outside Scripps Hall, and the roadways, sidewalks and open spaces along the corridor.

During the event, those attending the workshops were invited to share their input via a series of exercises.

The exercises, conducted through various poster boards located throughout the workshop space, allowed the community to comment on existing and future exterior and interior uses along the corridor, the existing and future environment of the corridor, what is working well and what they would like to see changed or not changed.

Among those who attended the workshops were Athens residents and city officials.

“We had lots of people who came to the workshops for the University’s Comprehensive Master Plan, and this project is equally important,” said Athens Mayor Steve Patterson. “Park Place is a city street and has great value to the city in its potential use or reuse. City streets are major resources; Athens has 192 one-way miles of street. This planning process is looking at various uses for this historic street. I have felt all along that however this project lands, there has to be vehicular traffic flow on Park Place because city safety services need access to do their jobs when needed.” 

“The Park Place corridor is a public space – it has the potential to be able to bridge the University community, including students, and the city community,” added Athens City Councilwoman Chris Fahl who also sits on the Park Place Planning Strategy Work Group. “It’s a nice space that can be used in many different ways and almost acts as a buffer between the University and city. It has amazing potential if the time is taken to plan it right, and citizen input is important for that reason.” 

Several members of the OHIO community also participated in the workshops, bringing their various perspectives to the conversation.

“I’m really excited they’re thinking about accessibility as part of the Park Place project,” said Dianne Bouvier, director of equal opportunity and accessibility at OHIO. “I came tonight to learn more about the plan and the process for moving forward. I like the process the work group is using for gathering input on what the community wants this space to be in the future.” 

Dave Edwards Sr., director of OHIO’s Brigadier General James M. Abraham and Colonel Arlene F. Greenfield Veterans and Military Students Services Center, and Terry St. Peter, an academic advisor and coordinator of veterans services, had a very specific reason for the attending the workshop.

“We’ve been working with Shawna Bolin and Christine Sheets on trying to find a new location for our veterans lounge,” Edwards said.

OHIO’s current veterans lounge is located in Bromley Hall. Edwards said several surveys of veterans and military students enrolled on the Athens Campus have indicated the need for a new location for that lounge.

“There is no accessible parking over there at Bromley Hall,” Edwards explained, “and, at the moment, the lounge is a collaboration, serving as a commuter/veterans lounge. Our veterans have told us that when they go there, they don’t feel like it’s unique to them. They would like a space all of their own.”

St. Peter noted research he’s conducted, with the help of an 1804 Grant, that concludes that a veterans lounge is an integral part of the overall academic experience for OHIO veterans. 

“Our desire is to have a lounge that is going to meet the needs of this diverse population,” St. Peter said. “We want to ensure that we have space that’s designated for veterans – where they can go for academic reasons but also a place to step away from the hustle and bustle, so to speak.”

For Ohio University student Courtney Hemming, the planning workshop was both an opportunity for academic enrichment and a chance to be part of OHIO history.

“I think it’s cool that they invited students and the public to come in and give their opinions,” said Hemming, a senior who is studying interior architecture and design and who interns in OHIO’s Office of Architecture, Design and Construction. 

From a professional perspective, Hemming said she was enjoying seeing the planning process for its beginnings. From a personal perspective, she said she was excited to be able to provide her input in this important conversation.

“I wanted to contribute my input, so when I come back to campus years from now, I can say I was a part of that,” she said.

The Park Place Planning Work Group will continue seeking input over the next several weeks. According to Bolin, 800 people, half of whom are OHIO students, have already submitted their ideas and feedback through the online survey, which will be available through March 15. 

Next steps in the process include reviewing, documenting and synthesizing the feedback received; conducting an interactive workshop with OHIO’s Board of Trustees at its March meeting; sharing information with Faculty Senate at one of its future meetings; and sharing information at an upcoming Athens City Council meeting.

The work group expects to make its final recommendations to the Board of Trustees in August.

For more information, visit the Park Place Planning Strategy website or email planning@ohio.edu.

Work Group includes campus, community representatives

The following individuals are serving on the Ohio University Park Place Strategy Work Group, which is co-chaired by University Planner Shawna Bolin and Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina:

Brad Cohen, senior vice provost for instructional innovation

Chris Fahl, chair of Athens City Council’s Planning and Development Committee

Miranda Kridler, space and classroom planner

Paul Logue, Athens City planner

Courteney Muhl, vice president of Student Senate

Brian Schoen, associate professor of history and a Faculty Senator

Megan Vogel, special assistant to the vice president for student affairs and director of resource administration 

Members of the Park Place Strategy Work Group were appointed to represent their respective areas.