ASHLAND, Ky. — In a whirlwind meeting Thursday detailing big moves in downtown Ashland, the city commission said it is looking into tearing down the old Ashland Oil building to make way for a convention center in the city’s core.
While traffic was the biggest topic of the meeting, the plans for the property played a strong second fiddle.
The job has been on the docket since 2013, when plans were drawn up to turn the blighted property into an attraction — Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs said a convention center is “a part of the jigsaw puzzle for our downtown.”
Located at 1401 Winchester Avenue, the plan is part of an overall push that Mayor Matthew B. Perkins said is to renovate the downtown. In addition to making way for the convention center, which would be across the street from the Delta Hotel, Perkins said tearing down the building is important due to public safety.
“If this was a privately owned property, we’d be having that building taken down,” Perkins said. “Financially, this is the most opportune time for us to move forward on this because of inflation in the tear down costs. I don’t know if the rates will be this low for a while.”
The city has owned the building since 2017, when the city commission accepted it as a donation from the Louisa Community Bank, according to contemporary reports. Back then, Mayor Steve Gilmore said it was for a convention center and a parking garage.
City Commissioner Amanda Clark, a long-time advocate for downtown redevelopment, said she added it to the agenda because it is so integral to the development of Ashland.
The day prior, Clark said she, Commissioner Josh Blanton and Perkins met with Downtown Strategies, an arm of Retail Strategies, the marketing firm contracted by the Boyd County Fiscal Court to the tune of $185,000 over three years.
Clark reported the company had come to Ashland to work on a branding plan for the city.
“They were pleasantly surprised to see how far along we are in implementing our plan,” Clark said. “So they are now going to rework what they’re contracted to do.”
All those pieces to the puzzle — the traffic reworking, the razing of the Ashland Oil building and the emphasis of branding and marketing — are rooted in what Clark said are best practices for downtown redevelopment.