ASHLAND- It's been several months since the Missouri Main Street Connection awarded the City of Ashland with the Community Empowerment Grant to revitalize their downtown area.

Now, the plans are beginning to form for improvements. 

Ashland City Administrator Tony St. Romaine said one of the first steps to this project was to get community input, which they did Wednesday night at a virtual town hall meeting.

"We had almost 50 people from the community logged into that Zoom, which was a really good showing," St. Romaine said. "We're starting to put some meat on the bones of stuff and how we begin to implement some of the ideas they've come up with."

This is a two year grant where the organization assists cities with development of their downtown areas while working to preserve its history.

"I think everybody, especially the residents of Ashland are really excited about kind of establishing, you know, what we're calling that sense of place downtown, that sense of belonging, the place where the community wants to gather for local events," St. Romaine said. 

Resident Roy L. Williams has lived in Ashland nearly 40 years and said he thinks the initiative is positive for his community. 

"I think it's a good idea, I really do," Williams said. "I would like to see them have a two-pronged thing where one is beautification, but the other is to try to maintain the historical significance of downtown Ashland."

Williams said he is hesitant of change, but hopeful for the upcoming years.

"I have to understand that it's really important, that growth is going to happen," he said. "So the best thing we can do is try to maintain it so that it happens in a healthy way and I am really proud of Ashland."

Mayor Richard Sullivan said residents like Williams have responded positively to discussion of revamping Broadway in downtown Ashland.

"As this transitions, and trying to give a refreshed look to our downtown area, I think they take it to heart and it's something that they want," he said.

Mayor Sullivan said he hopes these steps will last long into the future.

"The key that we want to do is keep businesses in our downtown district to revitalize those buildings and make the whole area just very appealing," he said.

The city hopes to start seeing these initial changes begin sometime in the next year. 

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