Ohio State Marion looking ahead project initiatives in 2014

News Release Date: 

With the close of 2013 and the beginning of the new year, there has been some significant movement on important projects here at Ohio State Marion. We thought you might be interested in the progress on these important initiatives.

Science/Engineering Building
Progress toward a new science and engineering building on the Marion campus took a major step forward in the last year. As a result of internal campus reserves and development funding generously provided by community donors, sufficient funds have been assembled to move the building to the top of the Marion campus capital needs inventory.

“This doesn’t mean that we stop raising funds for the project,” said Dean and Director Greg Rose. “It simply means we can move more deliberately through the planning and construction process.”

Ohio State Marion’s local board approved the $15 million project at their November, 2013 meeting. Now, the hope is that the project will be among those approved as part of the university’s annual Capital Improvement Plan by The Ohio State Board of Trustees during their meeting on June 5th and 6th, 2014. If approved as part of the Capital Improvement Plan, the Marion campus will seek the go-ahead to hire an architectural firm, potentially as early as this summer.

Even though architects won’t be in place until the summer, Ohio State’s planners will begin refining the feasibility study that was completed for the building in October, 2007 by the architectural and engineering firm, DLZ. Ohio State planners, who worked with the Marion campus to develop the campus’ Framework Plan, expect to interact closely with campus faculty and staff over the next several months to refine the uses for the building, including the addition of space for Ohio State Marion’s growing engineering program. This process should help architects, once they are hired, to design and prepare construction plans for the building.

Current and future donors can be assured that Ohio State Marion is dedicated to a new science and engineering building becoming a reality on the Marion campus. Refining the plan for the building will allow naming opportunities to be developed for labs, classrooms, and other spaces.

“We are excited to see this project moving forward,” said Dean Rose. “I personally look forward to the dialogue that will take place as this major piece of our academic mission takes final form.”

University Drive
Groundbreaking is expected in the fall of 2014 for the extension of University Drive through the Marion campus, according to Phil Wright, Project Manager with the Marion County Engineer’s Office. The University Drive south extension will run approximately 2,900 feet from Mt. Vernon Avenue (SR 95) south to SR 529. A curve replacement portion of the project will extend another 1,200 feet south of the campus.  Planning is nearly complete for the long-anticipated $3.5 million road project.

“All we are waiting for is final sign-off on easements,” said Wright.

The road easement language is under review by Ohio State, ODOT and Marion County. Ohio State’s Board of Trustees has already approved the project. Once the easements are approved, the county is clear to advertise for construction bids.

Construction plans have been completed by American Structurepoint, Inc., the consulting engineering firm hired by the Marion County Engineer’s Office. The construction plans are being submitted to the Ohio Department of Transportation for final approval.

American Structurepoint subcontracted landscaping planning to MKSK Studios of Columbus. The final landscaping plan was developed in consultation with campus and county officials. Landscaping will include a 10-foot wide bike path/walkway along the east side of University Drive. The plan also includes numerous trees, primarily red oaks, white oaks, redbuds, and pin oaks that are native to the area and prairie plantings, similar to those in Ohio State Marion’s Larry Yoder Prairie.

The addition of a bikeway along the new road is encouraging to Joe Zhou, Ohio State Marion’s media lab coordinator.  Zhou lives in the Chateau Ridge subdivision south of campus and says he likely will bike to work once the new road and bike path are in place.

“This will make it very easy for me,” he said, since he will avoid the extra mileage and heavy traffic involved in taking SR 529 to Mt. Vernon Avenue, then east to the campus’s north entrance.

An ODOT enhancement grant of $895,000 will pay for the landscaping and pedestrian/bicycle pathway. The Ohio Public Works Commission is providing $500,000 to the project. The Ohio Department of Transportation is also providing $1 million in safety grant funds to smooth the curve on SR 529 south of campus. Numerous accidents have occurred on what is now a sharp curve near the Kaufman Farm. The remaining funds, approximately $1.1 million, will come from Marion County’s transportation budget.
Once construction bids are let, the contractor will have twelve months to complete the project. Best estimates are that the first traffic on the new road could begin to flow in the third or fourth quarter of 2015.

Food Service
Working with Ohio State’s Office of Purchasing and the Office of Dining Services, Ohio State Marion Business Manager Karen Carroll reports that the campus is close to a contract with one or more food trucks that will bring breakfast and lunch items to the campus on a regular basis. Details are still to be finalized, reports Carroll, but, she says, “we could see a food truck in our parking lot as early as January.” In Columbus, the university works with an aggregator—a contractor who organizes the various food truck vendors. The contractor makes sure the vendors are in compliance with health regulations and deploys them to various locations on the Columbus campus. The contractor reports that he has been in contact with several vendors who have an interest in serving the Marion campus.

Meanwhile, discussions are still ongoing about more permanent food service on campus. Options include issuing a request for proposals for construction and operation of food service facilities in one or several campus buildings. “These are longer term solutions,” says Carroll. “The food truck option will get us going in the near term—then we can see what kind of demand and response there is from faculty, staff, and students.”

Student Housing
Ohio State students are beginning to populate the historic hotel that was built in 1924 in honor of President Warren G. Harding. After years of neglect, the 67-unit hotel was restored in 1997 to serve as low-income senior housing. At the expiration of the 15-year window in which that use was prescribed as a condition for funding, local developer Lois Fisher purchased the Harding Centre at 267 West Center Street with an eye toward transitioning it to student housing.

Since taking ownership of the structure this past August, her crews have been busy repainting, putting in new flooring, tuck-pointing, and making the former Harding Hotel shine once again.

“It’s been a work of love,” said Fisher, who has restored many of Downtown Marion’s structures. She and husband Nick live in a third-floor loft in the former Uhler-Phillips Department Store at the corner of Prospect and Center Streets.

To date, several students have moved into the structure, located across Center Street from the historic Palace Theatre.

“Our intent is to continue hosting our senior residents as long as they wish to stay,” said Fisher. As the seniors vacate their apartments, she will transition those spaces to student housing.

The structure is also being offered as a venue for weddings and receptions. With a second-floor ballroom and restored first floor lobby, the Hotel Harding lends an air of authenticity and history to those events. In fact, the Harding has been booked by Ohio State Marion and Marion Technical College student groups as the site of an April 25th spring formal farewell dance, ending the spring semester.

Fisher has also purchased the building immediately to the west of the Harding Centre, located at 185-193 West Center Street. In it, she hopes to create a student center and attract additional tenants who will be compatible with the “LoDo” (Lower Downtown) district. That property also provides 114 parking spaces for student residents.

The two-bedroom apartments in the Harding Centre lease for $695/month for a single person or $395/month each for roommates. The lease includes all utilities, internet access, and cable television.

“We’re excited by the addition of students into the ‘LoDo’ district,” she added.  Fisher believes the Harding Centre and the students it houses will create a new market for retailers and become the anchor for a new chapter in downtown Marion’s history.

The apartment building at 219 West Church Street is another downtown property being converted to student housing. The brick structure is owned by Dr. Rafael Nivar and his wife Virginia, who is a senior lecturer in computer science, engineering, and biochemistry at Ohio State Marion. The Nivar property includes 18 apartments that have been recently updated.

In addition to these downtown student housing projects, many apartment communities in the Marion area cater to students. A complete listing of student-friendly housing options can be found at http://osumarion.osu.edu/housing.

Compiled and edited by Dave Claborn, Director of Development and Community Relations