Ashland’s downtown streetscape plan gaining momentum
A years-in-the-making downtown revitalization project is set to kick off this summer. The town’s message to local businesses? It’s not going to be fun, but it’ll be worth it.
This August, Ashland will begin work on the first phase of downtown streetscape improvements, set to target the west side of Railroad Avenue in the center of town.
While town officials stressed they will work with their contractor to lessen the burden on local business owners in the project area, there will likely be some collateral damage en route to a beautified downtown Ashland.
“There’s going to be inconveniences; I’d be lying to everyone in this room if I [said] there would not be an inconvenience during this construction project – it’s a construction project,” Charles Hartgrove, town manager, said during a June 11 meeting at Town Hall. “At the same time, we’re doing this for the betterment of downtown so that we can have walkable, safe sidewalks.”
“There will be days when this is not fun, but we’ll do everything we can to make this project palatable and keep businesses open,” Hartgrove added.
He also stressed the strong relationship the town has with its on-call contractor, Tally & Armstrong, which has completed a number of projects for the town.
“We’re not bringing in a contractor we’ve never worked with before; this is someone we do business with on a regular basis, and they’ve proven themselves to us and to stakeholders in other projects,” he said.
Also during the Tuesday meeting, Don Rissmeyer, with engineering firm A. Morton Thomas and Associates, gave members of the Ashland Main Street Association, local business owners and town officials an overview of the streetscape project.
The design phase of the plan is 60 percent complete and entails pouring new sidewalks, installing new street lighting and improving drainage in Ashland’s downtown commercial district, specifically, the area along Railroad Avenue from the Henry Clay Inn, south, near the entrance to the town’s municipal parking lot.
The project will also feature some of the low-impact design elements already in use within town limits, such as pervious pavers to capture stormwater runoff.
While the exact budget for the first phase of the project is still taking shape, Mike Davis, director of public works, said there is approximately $400,000 total set aside for the revitalization, and the town intends to use a combination of local funds and those appropriated to Ashland from the state for routine road upkeep.
While improvements to the east side of the tracks are anticipated in the future, no funds have been set aside to target that area yet, Davis added.
Unresolved variables such as landscaping and pedestrian crosswalks could affect the final project cost.
Rissmeyer said the design phase of the project should be finalized this month and he and the town will begin talks with the contractor in July, the same month Town Council is expected to sign off on a final budget and project plan.
Construction will likely follow in August and will target either the area north or south of England Street. While the town hopes construction will be wrapped up in time for Train Day, Davis noted there will likely be some surprises along the way that could impact the construction timeline. The town is currently completing a streetscape improvement project in the College Park neighborhood, and crews are running into issues caused by not knowing what lies beneath the pavement, due to the age of the area.
“Being in an old downtown section, we just anticipate a similar amount of surprises, so that’s why it’s very challenging to make a promise,” Davis said.