The past six months Ahmed Menevseoglu, a doctoral candidate in food science at Ohio State, has been getting up a bit earlier than he would prefer. His 1-year-old son normally wakes up he and his wife by about 8:30 a.m.
While all new parents are accustomed to the cries of their child to start the day, Menevseoglu and his wife are now woken up daily at 7:00 a.m. by the sounds of cranes and bulldozers in the backyard of their Buckeye Village home — well before their infant son would normally be stirring.
The ringing construction noises last virtually all day, he said, and are not expected to end anytime soon: the building of Covelli Multi-Sport Arena, which began in June, isn’t slated to be completed until spring of 2019.
Sam Covelli, franchise owner of hundreds of Panera Bread locations, committed $10 million to Ohio State’s athletic department in 2012 to have his name bestowed on the new arena upon its completion.
The $30 million athletic venue that will host volleyball, wrestling and five other sports was initially planned to replace the aging St. John Arena. Those plans eventually faded and a new location was chosen along Olentangy River Road, right next to where Ohio State’s family housing, Buckeye Village, is located.
As the location changed, so did construction plans. Instead of being a stand-alone venue, Covelli Arena will now be linked with the Jennings Wrestling Facility, raising construction costs to $49.7 million, according to Board of Trustee documents.
Along with the increased price tag came an expanded construction footprint, one that is now just steps away from Menevseoglu’s front door, separated only by a chain-link fence.
To make space for the athletic complex, 18 percent, or about 50 apartments, of Buckeye Village’s family housing were demolished last year. In turn, with space now limited, no new applications for family housing are being taken.
“Because of the project, university housing has decided not to accept new resident applications,” said Anne Bingman, Buckeye Village’s housing coordinator. “We want to make sure we can take care of all of our current residents at this time.”
University spokesman Ben Johnson said Ohio State administrators meet monthly with Buckeye Village residents to answer questions about construction and future planning.
Menevseoglu and his family inhabit one of the 295 apartments left that make up Buckeye Village.
The neighborhood is adored by its residents yet largely unknown to the majority of Ohio State’s students.
Instead of empty solo cups and speakers on the porch, strollers, kids toys and sleds adorn the front yards of the family housing apartments.
Most of the residents of Buckeye Village are graduate students pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree. To live in a family housing unit, one must either be married or have a child, hence the nontraditional student tag the university applies to these students.
Buckeye Village only has one and two-bedroom units. The one-bedroom units are for married couples and the two-bedroom units are for couples with children.
The complex first opened in 1948 and has had its fair share of problems in the decades since; residents were notified of elevated lead levels in their water in August 2016, and some, such as Colin and Emily Wood, were forced to switch apartments when rodent problems persisted.
But residents such as Menevseoglu and the Woods praise the resources that come with Buckeye Village, even though they now dread the seemingly constant construction.
“We have a nice playground. We have tons of green space. There are kids for our children to play with,” said Emily Wood, a mother of two young children. “There is a community of people that are going through the same thing you’re going through. You can even find your babysitter in this neighborhood. It is very much a community and there is nothing else like it in Columbus for people with kids. It’s a big draw.”
The Woods met at Ohio State and wed while they were both undergraduate students before moving to Buckeye Village because it made the most financial and logistical sense while Colin pursues his doctorate degree in jazz studies from Ohio State’s School of Music.
The couple has lived in Buckeye Village for five years now, and knew the day would come when the construction began. It had been talked about and delayed for years, Emily Wood said.
Colin Wood said he would not be able to balance paying bills, being a dad and a full-time student if not for the convenient location and price of Buckeye Village. In fact, he said he would not even be able to get to school if not for the free bus offered to family housing residents that runs to and from main campus every day. Buckeye Village parking passes only allow residents to park in apartment lots and not on main campus.
“It’s a big pull for people to come here [Ohio State],” said Emily Wood, who previously worked in Buckeye Village’s community center. “So many people that live here have said they would not have come to Ohio State if this opportunity had not been here.”
Pricing for apartments at Buckeye Village as of last year are $535 per month for a one-bedroom unit and $675 for a two-bedroom unit. Emily and Colin Wood said their rent had barely gone up in the past five years.
The Woods estimated that even with construction underway, those who inhabited the now-demolished apartments were able to find housing in vacant units. Bingman said Buckeye Village has kept vacant apartments available for those displaced by the current construction.
Only 69 percent of Buckeye Village is currently inhabited, the lowest total in the past 10 years, according to data provided by Ohio State. Two years ago occupancy hit a 10-year high of 92 percent.
The future of Buckeye Village remains unclear. The university’s Framework 2.0 plans call for graduate and family housing to be placed elsewhere on campus. Ohio State put out a request for proposals last January seeking a developer to build a 450-unit family housing complex on the northeast corner of Kenny Road and Woody Hayes Drive.
Johnson said Ohio State received eight responses to the requests from teams of developers, three of which were selected to provide additional information.
“The university continues the evaluation process, which includes determining if this approach can deliver an affordable housing option,” he said.
With new family housing space in limbo, residents of the worn-down Buckeye Village are making due with their current homes during the construction.
The beloved apartment complex will soon be sandwiched by construction on both ends. University City Center, once a thriving strip center with a Kroger grocery store at the strip mall, is being demolished and revamped this spring.
Menevseoglu said he is moving north and farther from the Covelli Arena construction next month, but closer to the soon-to-be city center redevelopment. He said the time had come and Ohio State honored his request to relocate within Buckeye Village, something he said many of his neighbors had already done.
The Woods already live in one of the northernmost apartment strips. The couple thinks their home is safe from looming construction — for now.
“The north end of Buckeye Village has more time,” Emily said. “It doesn’t seem like the construction is going to come this way, yet. If and when that happens, well when that happens I should say, it will be a few years down the road.”