Residents lobby for Plaza changes

A new committee will draft a plan for beautification projects in Ashland and will likely face heavy lobbying from people angered by a downtown Plaza redesign carried out earlier this year.

The Ashland City Council voted on Tuesday night to form the committee.

The committee is tasked with reviewing potential beautification projects downtown, gathering public input and making recommendations about which projects should move forward.

City staff members had suggested considering beautification projects throughout Ashland, but councilors narrowed the focus to the downtown.

During the current two-year budget cycle, Ashland expects to take in $128,000 in hotel tax revenue that could be used for such projects, according to city staff.

State law requires that a portion of hotel tax revenue be spent to promote tourism.

Councilors authorized the committee to draft a four-year beautification plan, agreeing that the committee needed to have a longer term perspective than two years. The committee can also look at other funding sources beyond hotel tax revenues.

The council will have to approve a final plan.

More than 500 people have signed petitions advocating that the city replace dark gray pavers that were installed during a Plaza redesign that wrapped up in the spring.

They would like to see pavers of another color, such as salmon.

Several came forward at the council meeting to advocate for the change.

Resident Cici Brown said she was appalled when she saw the redesigned Plaza and the dark gray pavers.

"They left a lump of coal on the Plaza that our town doesn't deserve," she said.

Digging out the current pavers and replacing them with pavers of a different color would cost about $35,000, according to city staff research.

People who hate the current pavers believe they could be re-sold, which would help offset some replacement costs.

City councilors and many residents assumed the Plaza would receive salmon-colored pavers as shown in architectural drawings.

However, that color was the default color in design software.

Some people attending a public art color selection panel meeting said dark gray pavers would better offset public art mosaics installed on the Plaza, and that color was chosen.

In addition to replacement of the dark gray pavers, the petitioners also would like more greenery added to the Plaza, the addition of a feature such as a fountain or arbor, and the replacement of low concrete seating walls with benches.

Several mature trees that were suffering in the cramped urban environment were removed from the Plaza, along with lawn areas that had become worn but served as a place to hang out.

The Plaza already has some benches to augment the low concrete walls, which protect new landscaping while doubling as seating.

Some people enjoy sitting on the walls, while others say the concrete seating is hard, too modern and lacks back support.

Other ideas for beautification projects include:

  • Fixing a broken fountain in front of the Black Swan Theatre. Cost: $35,000 to $40,000.
  • Switching Gothic-style downtown street lights to a different style. Cost: $150,000.
  • Putting planters on the downtown Plaza. Cost: $3,500.
  • Placing moveable tables and chairs on the Plaza. Cost: $450 per set of two chairs with a table.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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