Before Ohio State started construction on the $365 million project that is now the completed North Residential District, the university had to keep clear its side of High Street.
To do so, Ohio State paid a neighboring church almost $13 million in 2013. It might seem like a lot of money, but the decision helped create a 34-percent revenue increase years later when sophomores were required to live in the newly built residence halls.
While the east side of High Street is quickly filling with brand new multi-story apartment complexes from Lane Avenue all the way south to 9th Avenue, the west side of the street that constitutes campus has remained neatly under Ohio State’s control — except for the small lot that St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church sits on, at the corner of Woodruff Avenue and North High.
In 2013, the church located at 30 W. Woodruff Ave. across from Ramseyer Hall, with its 150-person sized atrium, had the idea to build an apartment complex of its own, called “The Lofts at St. Stephen’s.”
The plan was to build a nine-story high-rise that would house between 250 and 280 residents.
“We were ready to break ground on building and the university did not want us to do that,” Rev. George Glazier, the then-rector of the church, told The Lantern in 2013. He added the housing was meant to “pull students closer in to this area.”
Ohio State was not too fond of that idea.
The university paid the church $12.8 million to not build the living quarters on its own lot.
The church received an upfront payment of $7.5 million with the remaining money coming over the course of 25 years with a fixed interest rate of 5 percent annually, according to the contract.
“We were very aware we were in a wonderful location,” said Joe Rutter who oversees church events and scheduling, and a now-retired Ohio State employee. “And [Ohio State] didn’t want us competing.”
In return, the church could not build the apartment complex. If the church decides to sell its land, Ohio State was given first dibs in determining its new use or who it could sell to.
Additionally, the contract allowed the university to weigh in on any future building projects the church might pursue.
Ohio State then pulled the students to the area instead.
The university was already planning its own massive renovation project. The project has now brought in eight residence halls and almost 3,200 new beds to North Campus, fulfilling former-president E. Gordon Gee’s vision.
Gee wanted sophomores to live on campus, and a plan to require second-years to do so was already being put in place — long before the recently announced 6-percent increase on housing fees and 3-percent increase in dining plans will go into effect next autumn.
With its sights set on the soon-to-be-implemented “Second-year Transformational Experience Program,” known as STEP, Ohio State made sure St. Stephen’s would remain a church, and nothing else.
Ohio State is the only Big Ten school that requires second-year students to remain on campus. Many of the 14 schools in the conference do not have any on-campus living requirements.
Ohio State joined other Ohio schools such as Ohio University, Miami University and Bowling Green State University that already required sophomores to live on campus.
It’s been a year since second-years have been required to live in dorms and Ohio State has seen a 34-percent increase in room-and-board revenue as a result. In the 11-month fiscal time period, revenue went up from $121 million in 2016 to $162 million in 2017, according to the most recent documents made available to the Board of Trustees’ financial committee.
Ohio State and other universities maintain their fiscal years according to the academic calendar, running from July 1 to June 30 the following year.
In the documents provided to the Board, the university attributes the jump in revenue almost entirely to the new dorms and the students who are now required to inhabit them.
“Revenues increased $41 million due primarily to an increase in residence hall occupancy due to the addition of new beds in the North Residential District at the start of the Autumn Semester and additional meal plans sold with the second-year residency program,” the documents stated.
Ohio State’s auxiliary revenue for Student Life far outpaced that of the Department of Athletics last year.
For Student Life, auxiliary revenue doesn’t including things like tuition, and for the Department of Athletics, it doesn’t include ticket sales.
In fact, Student Life earned $48 million more than the Department of Athletics. The previous year, Student Life earned $11 million more.
An Ohio State spokesman told The Lantern in 2013 the church’s plans to build an apartment complex would be an “aesthetic detriment.”
Now, the aesthetics have certainly changed.
The more than 60-year-old church sits 20 feet from the brand new window-covered Busch House.
Around the corner, Curl Market is one of many new dining locations available for the almost 7,000 new students living on campus, many of whom live in the remodeled area, akin to its own small town complete with a clock tower.
As Glazier said back when he first learned his church had been handed the large sum of upfront cash from Ohio State — this is a “win-win” situation for both sides.
Correction, 10/26: This article previously misstated the total cost of the North Residential Project as the projected cost of $396 million. Its total cost was $365 million.