By CARRIE KIRSCHNER
ASHLAND — All five floors of the former C.H. Parson’s Building were bustling with activity Thursday night.
Ashland Community and Technical College students moved in and out of newly renovated second- and third-floor classrooms while business men and women dressed in suits and toting briefcases gathered in the lobby of the fourth floor entreprenual center.
The people, however, aren’t real and neither are the classrooms, the four-story glass atrium or the 500-seat fifth-floor conference center they inhabit in the Parson’s building.
At least not yet.
They are instead part of virtual tour created to, in the words of ACTC President Gregory Adkins, “give people a visual of what this building could be like.”
The video is intended to inspire and showcase “the potential of this facility as a crown jewel of downtown Ashland,” Adkins added.
Recently completed by the global architectural firm GBBN, the video was shown publicly for the first time Thursday night to the attendees of the Ashland Board of City Commissioner meeting.
Built using specialized software from careful measurements and digital photographs of the existing building and funded by a $10,000 grant from the Woodlands Foundation, it will be used primarily as a marketing tool for ACTC as it solicits donations and grants to get the estimated $10 to $12 million renovation project rolling.
ACTC received the Parson’s building from Ashland businessman Perry Madden and his wife Susan Madden in December.
ACTC plans to renovate the entire building, but only the upper four floors will house the college. Adkins said the second and third floors will house classrooms and labs for its nursing and health occupation courses, while the fourth floor will become home to a pre-employment testing center, an entrepreneur center and business incubator. The fifth floor will house a conference center large enough to accommodate 500 people.
Currently, it is home only to the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center, which will remain in the building.
Touted by both college and city officials as a centerpiece of the puzzle that must be constructed to revitalize downtown, the project is expected to bring an economic boost to Ashland as well.
In addition to bringing students into the city’s central business district the conference center is expected to draw hundreds of others — many from out of town into Ashland as well.
“We believe we will become an ideal location for small to midsize conferences as the city grows and you develop the river front,” Adkins told Ashland commissioners.
A timeline for the renovation has not yet been determined because the project depends entirely on the ability of the college to solicit donations and acquire grants.
Adkins said the facade of the building and some of its internal infrastructure most likely will be renovated first but the preceding phases are flexible.
“After we have improved the skin, the outside of the building, we can renovate this facility floor by floor,” he said. “We could do the top floor first, then go down and do the second floor ... Once we get the basic infrastructure in, we can move back and forward.”
Because the virtual tour was created as a fundraising tool, it will mostly be shown to potential donors and government officials, said ACTC spokesman John McGlone. He added that the college may also consider finding ways to share it with the public as well.
“I think once people see that video, this will be a project they can get behind,” McGlone said.
CARRIE KIRSCHNER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.