ASHLAND “If you build it, they will come” isn’t just an iconic catchphrase from Field of Dreams — it’s one of the guiding principles behind Ashland’s Broadway Square.
And despite social distancing protocols, they did come Friday for a ribbon cutting ceremony to the new square located at 16th Street and Winchester, toted as the “living room for downtown” by Mayor Steve Gilmore.
Fifteen years in the making, the square was a vision Gilmore had during his first term as mayor. Local artist and architect Kim Jenkins drew up the plans for it, but high bids and a low budget stalled it in the development phase.
For years, Gilmore thought the philosophy for developing downtown was to entice businesses to set up shop, then people would frequent the area. However, when Kentucky Power paid to have community development consultant Roger Brooks come to Ashland last November and see what could be done.
One of the big takeaways, Gilmore said, was to build a space in downtown that would attract people. From there, businesses would follow, Gilmore said.
If you build it, they will come, so to speak.
Gilmore said he showed Brooks the plan and the specialist loved it.
Which brings it all back to Friday — after nearly a year of local contractor Debcon toiling in the rain, snow, sleet and hot sun, nearly 100 people came out to dedicate the new square to the community.
The mayor was in his element, issuing congratulations and thanks to the contractors, the city employees and Jenkins for all the hard work from taking the vision from blueprints pages to reality.
The ornate square equipped with two fountains — which City Engineer Steve Cole said could reach the fifth floor of the Community Trust Bank if they ratcheted the pressure to the max — will be a space for families to congregate and enjoy entertainment such as live music or plays.
Gilmore said he wants to get to up to 240 events at the square per year.
Commissioner Amanda Clark, who is on the Destination Ashland team, called the opening of the square a “fantastic day in Ashland.” The organization, which is in charge of figuring out marketing for visitors and tourism for the city, views the square as working hand-in-hand with its mission, Clark said.
“We’ve learned that downtown is about people, not cars. It’s about life after 6 p.m.,” Clark said. “What we at Destination Ashland are doing is working on a marketing and cultural shift. This will serve as the hub for people downtown.”
Added Clark: “This is your space, use it. This is your downtown. Spend time here.”
At the ribbon cutting, Gilmore presented keys to the city of longtime business owners at Don’s Men Shop, Pollock’s Jewelers, as well as to Community Trust Bank President Andrew Jones and Dr. E.B. Gevedon for their support in developing downtown.
He also presented a key to the city to Jenkins, a “jewel of the city and creative genius,” according to Gilmore.
“I’ve been back in my hometown for 35 years and this is the pinnacle of my career,” Jenkins said. “We’ve been working on this for a long time and it’s finally come to fruition. This is what you come to your hometown for.”
After the ribbon had been cut and the keys handed out, Gilmore gave the signal to turn the fountains on.
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