Bowling alley transformed

The former Ashland bowling alley is getting a facelift for a second life as retail space.

Since Trinity Lanes closed in December of 2000, Steve Meister said he knew the building would never be used as a bowling alley again.

"I knew 12 lanes just didn't generate enough business to make it," Meister said. "Everybody that's been in that building has struggled."

Meister, who also owns the retail space anchored by Market of Choice, said the 12,000-square-foot space will be divided into no more than six retail spaces between 1,700 and 2,000 square feet. It is also possible for one tenant to occupy the entire space, Meister said, because no retailers have claimed spots.

The building, currently in the demolition phase, is scheduled to open in January, said Corey Vitus, the contractor for the project.

It took nearly seven years to make changes, Meister said, because he tried unsuccessfully to find tenants before starting construction.

"It just needed improvement before there was any interest," he said. "I'm looking for something that's going to justify the piece of property that it's on and have some success in there."

Although other nearby retail space filled slowly, Meister said he is not concerned about finding tenants, and suggested that additional buildings would fit on the property for future expansion.

"As much as I liked the bowling alley, anytime more development comes in, that spurs more economic activity," said Alex Jansen, who manages the family-owned retail space across the street from the bowling alley, Siskiyou Commons.

Jansen attributed his delay in finding tenants to bad timing, as he opened the project shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 during the economic downturn. He still has space for one or two more tenants, which he said must be a good fit for the area dominated by medical offices. Rather than creating competition, Jansen said the bowling alley transition would help him attract additional tenants.

Chamber of Commerce President Graham Lewis said the project could provide much needed space for local business.

"In Ashland, space available for business is at a premium," he said. "We talk a lot about workforce housing and affordable housing, which is an issue, but affordable work space is another issue."

New retailers are perhaps a sign of economic progress, but they mark the end of another era in Ashland.

"I wish it was still an alley, but our generation is growing older and getting out of the business of bowling," said former senior league bowler Paul Walker. "I don't think they could ever revive bowling in this town."

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