ASHLAND, Ky. — A plan to build a pavilion, or another multiuse structure, in downtown Ashland that would shelter local farmers and artisans and be used for special events is “in the works,” according to Mayor Steve Gilmore.
The number of requests that the city build a new public structure downtown, specifically on Judd Plaza, has resurged in recent months. In March, hundreds chimed in on Facebook threads floating ideas for a pavilion, leading local farmer Casey Muncy to suggest the city act on the idea during a public meeting.
Gilmore said to build a pavilion on 16th Street, the city needs to work with Community Trust Bank. The mayor said he’d be in favor of closing a section of the street to facilitate a regular farmers market if the bank and local producers are on board.
Muncy, a member of the Boyd County Farmers Market, said Friday it’s clear a local appetite for local produce exists, and a downtown pavilion would help local farmers, businesses and downtown as a whole.
Area farmers and other vendors often collaborate with businesses in Boyd and Greenup counties to host weekly events in the summer and fall. The King’s Daughters Medical Center Farmers Market, for instance, opened last week and local growers sold out quickly.
Last year, the Boyd County Farmers Market made about half of its total $86,000 in sales at the KDMC market, Muncy said.
A regular farmers market in downtown Ashland would draw more toward local produce, and boost foot traffic near local shops and restaurants, and Judd Plaza is the ideal spot for a downtown farmers market based on its proximity to those businesses, he added.
Muncy said he and some of the roughly 60 other local producers could serve downtown shoppers and workers twice per week and even in the evening, regardless of rain.
Andrew Jones, president of Community Trust Bank and chairman of the Ashland Alliance, said he’s not personally in favor of a permanent structure at Judd Plaza, and believes there are better downtown locations for farmers markets. He said he hopes the bank, city, Ashland in Motion and the Alliance and the other parties “can come together and review all the ideas.”
Other ideas for Judd Plaza have floated in the community since at least 2008. They include creating a community green complete with a permanent stage, a plan discussed extensively and had design plans during Gilmore’s previous tenure as mayor, but was never completed.
Some aesthetic work on Judd Plaza was completed recently. Trees along 16th Street were chopped down and the root-damaged sidewalk was repaved.
Community and Economic Development Director Chris Pullem said no matter which project is chosen for Judd Plaza, the city needs to ensure “it fits with the theme of downtown and doesn’t stick out,” since the half-a-block area is not particularly large.
Pullem said he thinks a pavilion or stage to host downtown farmers markets and other events “could be a win-win for everyone.”
The city commission is still seeking input from the public on ideas for Judd Plaza, Gilmore said.
The commission will meet at noon Thursday for its regular meeting. Today through Wednesday, it will have public work sessions to discuss the new fiscal year budget.