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The city plans to fix the crumbling facade at 16 E. Main St., but the unexpected closing of a local architecture firm has delayed the project. 

ASHLAND - Ashland Mayor Matt Miller capped off a city council meeting Tuesday by providing updates on three downtown projects and they city's street paving plans. 

Miller acknowledged little visible progress has been made at two downtown sites that recently were acquired by the city-- the building at 16 E. Main St. and the vacant lot where the former Weiss drugstore once stood. City residents can expect to see improvements to both sites soon, Miller said. 

The mayor's comments also included discussions of the city's ornamental light poles downtown and the city's plans for Highland Boulevard, which is in need of resurfacing. 

16 E. Main St.

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The city purchased 16 E. Main St. late last year. 

The city of Ashland acquired the 130-year old building at 16 E. Main St. late last year, paying $12,000 to previous owners Paul Smith and Bill Sample in exchange for the property. 

The plan, Miller announced at the time, is to use state grant funding to fix up the building's crumbling facade. 

Despite the initial excitement surrounding the project, work has not yet begun. 

"We've been waiting a long time to see improvements to the exterior of 16 E. Main St., and even we were wondering why the delay," Miller said Tuesday. 

Miller said city leaders met with local structural engineer and architect Tim Anderson in early February, and Anderson's firm expected to have documents ready by the end of March.

After contacting the company several times, Miller said, city leaders recently learned the company owner has been dealing with a serious medical issue and will not be returning to work. 

Miller said the city asked Dan Seckel of Seckel Group Architects in Mansfield to take over the project. The firm will submit a proposal and then, if approved by the city, perform the design work for the facade project. 

City leaders also contacted the state, which has agreed to provide $250,000 in grant funding for the project, to explain the delay. 

"Technically, the grant money is supposed to be used by January 1 of next year, so we've made them aware in case we have to request an extension if all of the work isn't completed," Miller said. 

Miller said he still expects work to begin this year, but he does not yet have a target completion date. 

After the improvements are complete, the city may sell the building, give it to the land bank or keep it and lease space to community entities. 

Former Weiss Pharmacy property

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The site of the former Weiss drugstore will seen be hyroseeded and turned to green space as the city awaits construction of a future "Main Street Plaza" gathering place. 

The city also acquired the land next to the Napa Auto Parts building late last year. The land, which is the former site of the Weiss Family Pharmacy buildings, was donated to the city by Matt Wurster. 

Wurster intended to renovate the buildings but found them to be beyond repair and reluctantly decided to demolish them. 

Miller acknowledged the site is unattractive in its current state. 

"It is growing weeds at the moment," Miller said. "Right now, there are also concrete barriers located on that property. Those barriers are scheduled to be removed tomorrow, weather permitting.

"Then we are going to hydroseed that space until we can move forward with the construction of what we're calling Main Street Plaza," Miller said. 

Miller said he hopes to turn the site into green space in time for the Ashland Downtown Dream Cruise and Car Show July 13. 

It is not yet clear when construction will begin on the site, Miller said. 

Miller has not announced plans for the property but has said his goal is to create an attractive public gathering place. 

Downtown light poles

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Light poles along Main Street will get a new paint job this summer. The light bulbs will also be changed out with warmer, brighter ones. 

Miller said the city has hired a company to repaint the ornamental light poles along Main Street downtown this summer. 

The poles have been in place approximately 20 years and are showing wear, Miller said. 

"Also, we are going to replace the light bulbs in those fixtures... Quite honestly, it's a very awkward light that is in those poles," Miller said. 

The new lighting will be warmer and brighter, Miller said. A sample of the new bulbs can be seen in a fixture near Corner Park at W. Main St. and Claremont Ave. 

Highland Boulevard paving 

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Highland Boulevard needs repaved. But first, city leaders intend to replace a sewer line. 

As the city works through its repaving plan, Miller said, city leaders have become aware of the poor condition of Highland Boulevard. 

Miller said the pavement has deteriorated in part because the road is shaded by the row of mature oak trees that line the green space in the center of the boulevard. 

"It's in poor condition, and a number of the residents have asked, 'Why aren't you resurfacing Highland Boulevard?'" Miller said. "Well the reason we're not doing that this year is because the sewer line down the center boulevard underneath those oak trees needs replaced."

Miller said the tree roots have penetrated the line and are creating "major problems."

Rather than taking down all the trees to replace the sewer line in its current position, Miller said, city leaders have decided to relocate the sewer line under the street. 

The engineering work for the new sewer line is complete, and work on that should begin  soon, Miller said. After that, the boulevard will be repaved-- either this year or next.