ASHLAND - A splash pad is likely to be the defining feature in a new public gathering space called Main Street Plaza, Ashland Mayor Matt Miller told Ashland Source.
Miller previously alluded to plans to turn the land where the former Weiss Family Pharmacy once stood into a new recreation area. He recently agreed to discuss the concept in greater detail.
While no plans have been finalized, Miller expects the plaza will include a splash pad and bronze animal statues-- both of which would be designed to create play spaces for children as well as to be aesthetically pleasing for adults. Additional features of the plaza likely will include seating, shade sails, greenery and lighting as well as a possible stage with a pergola.
According to Miller, Main Street Plaza is likely to be the first portion of the city's Targeted Action Plan to come to fruition. Miller is hopeful construction on the the new park could begin this year and be completed in 2020 using a combination of private donations and city tax dollars. Miller declined to provide an estimated cost for the project.
Paid for by the Ashland County Community Foundation and created by OHM Advisors under the guidance of a local steering committee, the Targeted Action Plan identifies key areas of the city where strategic improvements could be made within the next five to 10 years using a combination of public and private funds.
Miller said he does not expect to publicly release the plan in its entirety. Rather, he will announce projects one by one as they city and its partners prepare to tackle them. Up first is Main Street Plaza.
While OHM and the Targeted Action Plan steering committee were working on the plan last year, property owner Matt Wurster discovered the former Weiss Family Pharmacy buildings needed to be demolished. He completed the demolition and then donated the land to the city. Wurster retained a 15-foot buffer area next to the former Napa Auto Parts building, where he hopes to lease space to a restauranteur.
Miller said he envisions the restaurant could have outdoor seating along the Napa building, where Wurster recently had the Selz Shoes advertisement restored.
The vacant land to the west of the building and the buffer zone will become the new plaza. The city's parking lot, where many Essex House residents and visitors often park, will remain, Miller said.
Miller said he would describe the future Main Street Plaza as an "active recreation area" that would serve as an anchor for the east end of downtown's Main Street corridor. Inspiration for the space came from the vision Wurster described to Miller when Wurster agreed to donate the property.
"One of the things Matt (Wurster) said that's always resonated with me was he said he would love to create a space where at 2 p.m. on a summer afternoon you would see a mom or dad and kids down there enjoying themselves," Miller said. "We're not talking about a playground, but a modern area families would like to visit."
Unlike the spray park at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, the splash pad or splash fountain at Main Street Plaza would not include colorful structures that make it look like a playground, Miller said. Instead, the pad would be more like the one near The Cheesecake Factory at Polaris Fashion Place.
"This would be something where there would be jets that would shoot straight up out of the ground," Miller said. "Kids could play in them on summer days, but at nighttime they would be lit with LED lights to create a dramatic water feature that would be visually impressive."
In addition to the splash pad, Miller said, preliminary design plans for the plaza include soft-surface play areas with bronze statues on which kids could play.
"For example, perhaps we'll have lions, tigers and bears," Miller said.
Miller likened the potential statues to those at Kalahari Resort in Sandusky.
The mayor said he has begun meeting with representatives of Ashland-based water play product company Rain Drop Products to develop a design for the splash pad. He has also begun gathering information from contractors to determine how much money various aspects of the project might cost and how different materials would impact the cost.
Though Miller said he considered this project as a possible use of capital improvement fund dollars when putting together the city's budget, he also said he could not provide an estimated project cost or say how much money the city would pay for its portion of the project.
"I don't want to give a number that isn't going to be realistic in the end or a number that could influence those that are telling me how much they may be able to quote for some of the elements of the project," Miller said.
Miller said he views Main Street Plaza as a marquee project that will set the tone for the completion of other projects in the Targeted Action Plan.
"We know that if we do this project well, it will help us build support both with our donors and the community," Miller said.