Over a dozen properties owned by Ohio University – including parts of The Ridges, several buildings in downtown Athens, and the largest known remnant of the original Southeastern Forest of Ohio – may be listed as surplus and available for sale if the board approves it.
The list of 13 properties has been included in a Press release of September 29 about the board meeting October 7-8. The press release touted plans to rename McCracken Hall; the surplus goods agenda item appears about one-third from the bottom.
The “portfolio reduction plan”, as outlined in the agenda, will be presented on October 7th. (The presentation is scheduled for 2:15 pm) The body will then decide whether or not to approve the university’s request to declare the properties “as surplus” and available for rent or sale. The properties would be included in “the project. state’s impending land surrender law, “according to a memo from Joseph Trubacz, Acting Vice President for Finance and Administration, Dominick Brook, Director of Real Estate and Shawna Wolfe, Associate Vice President for university planning.
A land transfer deed authorizes the sale of real estate within three years of its adoption; it does not require sale if an alternative is chosen.
The reduction of the university’s real estate portfolio was discussed during the April 2021 board meeting like “Re-imagining the use of space and our physical footprint”. This presentation indicates that the university is spending $ 35 million to maintain facilities on the Athens campus and $ 4.9 million on regional campuses. Utilities cost over $ 14 million per year, plus $ 2 million per year for wi-fi and internet. These costs did not include parking or funds in individual department budgets for the physical plant, the presentation noted. The university planning, facilities and real estate offices would work on “the right size university space” by identifying vacant or underutilized properties and deciding what to do with them, according to the April presentation.
Seven of the 13 properties that will be discussed Thursday were identified during the April presentation: Horse Park and CDC at Southern Campus; Crewson House, Lasher Hall, Haning Hall, the Central Classroom Building and 31 S. Court St.
In April, the university predicted that the sale or demolition of 10 identified properties would reduce the physical plant of the university by 316.00 gross square feet and save $ 1.5 million per year, as well as revenue from lease from $ 465,000 to $ 1.5 million. Eliminating additional properties would increase savings by $ 5.1 million annually.
The October order of business estimates savings of at least $ 10.3 million in deferred maintenance and $ 455,358 in operations and management.
The properties identified for divestiture “were selected after consideration of several key factors such as use, location of the property, alignment with the university’s strategic needs and financial impact,” according to the September 29 press release.
Different action plans will be pursued for each of the properties, according to the press release. In some cases, attempts will first be made to rent out the properties. In others, only parts of the identified properties would be considered for sale.
In a few cases, the university “has already been approached by potential buyers of the land in question,” the statement said, adding that “in many cases any sale would include all the deed restrictions necessary to ensure that the uses of the property is compatible with the mission and strategy of the university.
The real estate disposals come as Ohio University continues to recover from a financial crisis that was first exposed in 2017 and was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, former senior vice president of finance and administration Deborah Shaffer told administrators the university expects to suffer nearly $ 300 million in losses in the years to come, even after laying off hundreds of employees and forcing time off, The Athens NEWS reported.
In June 2021, Shaffer told the board that since the start of the pandemic, the university has lost about $ 84 million in revenue while facing nearly $ 47 million in additional expenses.