A Best Western hotel is at the center of plans for Pump House Square, a development in downtown Ashland. Picture by BGW.

ASHLAND – Plans are moving forward for redeveloping the Pump House Ministries buildings in downtown Ashland, with a Best Western Motel at the center of the initiative.

The Rev. Bruce Wilkinson, president of Pump House Ministries, invited a cross-section of Ashland’s community leaders to hear an update from Eric Bahme, Director of BGW Stewardship, the architectural company working with the Pump House on the development project, which would also include retail establishments and community-related sections.

BGW Stewardship focuses on working with churches, Christian colleges and nonprofits and has completed similar projects in other cities.

Phase One will be the hotel, followed by Phase Two, which would include the retail portions of the project.

Eric Bahme

“That’s the direction we want to go so we can help change the community,” Bahme said.

Bahme said he hopes to have “shovel in the ground” to start the hotel portion of the project by November. However, before construction can start, the remaining buildings will have to be demolished, which will cost close to $1 million.

On May 30, 2013, five juveniles started approximately seven fires throughout one of the buildings in the Pump House Ministries complex. The fire spread and three warehouse buildings near the corner of Fourth and Union streets were damaged or destroyed in the blaze.

Pump House is looking for investors within the community to raise $2 million in capital before starting the building project.

The Best Western hotel would have 71 rooms and employ 25-35 people. Bahme said the hotel portion of the project would take 18 to 24 months to complete.

Before contacting Best Western, a feasibility study was completed which found that downtown Ashland needs a hotel. Bahme said this study takes into account the new Hampton being built on U.S. 250 East.

Master plan

Wilkinson and Bahme both said they are working closely with Main Street Ashland to create a synergy that helps both the downtown and the Pump House project.

“People like to be in a hub of activity. They like to be downtown. It’s just a fun place to be. I can stay across from a WalMart anytime I want but I can’t necessarily stay in a place that once had a history of an industrial revolution,” Bahme said. “I can stay at a Hampton Inn that looks like a Hampton Inn anyplace, but I can’t stay at a pump house. That’s what is attracting to people.”

Retail Strategies, a national consulting firm, has been brought on to help attract retail businesses for the development. The firm has worked with more than 100 cities to attract retail and has already started its marketing process for the Pump House Square development.

Pump House Square overview

The vision for the Pump House Square project was formed a few years ago when Wilkinson invited Bahme to visit Ashland and see what ideas he had for the buildings, which were the former home of F.E. Myers Co., a prominent pump manufacture in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“I realized that there was a rich history on that property,” Bahme said. “I bet you many of your families worked in those buildings. You probably heard the sound of a whistle that blew in this community. There are probably a lot of good memories for some of you.”

Bahme decided to try and recapture the industrial feel of the original buildings, but felt it would be better to build new buildings than to try to remodel the existing structures.

Tower demolition

The new development would also recapture another piece of the buildings’ history. A new water tower would be built at the center of the development. The water tower at the top of the old building was a landmark in downtown Ashland, but that building was one of the buildings being demolished. Most of the building was demolished earlier this year. A few hours after Thursday’s meeting, the water tower was torn down as the final piece of the building was demolished.

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