More OU residence halls being demolished on South Green

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ATHENS — Ohio University is in the process this summer of tearing down three of its late 1960s-early 1970s dormitories on its South Green.

The demolition of the three buildings — Smith, Atkinson and Armbruster houses, located near the Hocking River — will cost an estimated $2.1 million, OU officials say. It’s part of a larger effort to demolish most, if not all, of OU’s “back south” dormitories. These residence halls featured modular living areas, with central communal rooms meant for hanging out or studying.

So far, the university already has demolished six — Cady, Foster, Brough, Fenzel, O’Bleness and Martzolff — of the 15 dorms in the back south area in recent years.

To replace these dorms, the university built four new residence halls on South Green in 2015 at a cost of $110 million (with about $100 million of that taken out as debt).

In March 2018, university trustees also heard a proposal to build a new 400-bed residence hall in the space vacated by the demolished South Green buildings. According to the board agenda, a university-hired consultant, Mackey Mitchell Architects of St. Louis, recommended OU demolish most of the back South Green dormitories while keeping Hoover, Ewing and Wray houses as “swing space. The firm said most of those dorms in question are “inefficient,” the building shells are “not conducive to rehabilitation” and have a significant amount of deferred maintenance.

Despite that recommendation, Pete Trentacoste, OU’s executive director of housing and residence life, said in an email that “the University will continue evaluating condition, rehabilitation costs, and capacity of bed count needs to determine timing of demolition for the remaining back South buildings.”

Part of that equation includes OU’s enrollment, which experienced record total growth each year between 2009 and 2016. The university’s total enrollment at all campuses peaked at 36,441 in 2016 but has since dropped. Last fall, OU had 34,443 total students, including 20,815 on the Athens main campus.

With few exceptions, all freshmen and sophomores are required to live on campus.

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@CondorMorris