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Seeing the possibility and promise in Owensboro

July 9, 2010

Just a few thoughts on downtown —

The frustration that some feel with the continued changes to the downtown master plan is understandable. The site plan for the hotel, events center and new home for the International Bluegrass Music Museum that was laid out this week is drastically different from what was proposed nearly two years ago, or even just earlier this year.

Proposing these types of changes while leaving the public out of the decision-making process that led to them threatens to leave local residents feeling disconnected from what’s happening downtown and distrustful of what’s being proposed, regardless of the value of the plan. We’ll be talking  more about the plan and the process on Sunday’s editorial page.

But beyond the reaction to how the downtown plan is evolving, changing and being decided, I’ve been struck by the sentiment expressed on our Facebook page or on our website that Owensboro’s not worthy of such improvements downtown, and this community is doomed to failure for dreaming so big.

Sure, there are questions about how much return the local community will get on this investment, and there are those that think this is just a project devoted to beautification rather than economic development. Others criticize the method used to fund downtown, and say an increase in any tax is too much given the economy, though I suspect those anti-tax arguments would be offered by some regardless of the economic climate.

But it’s disheartening to hear from those critics who are down on downtown development, or any major public projects, because they believe this city isn’t worth the effort. Sure, Owensboro won’t be Lexington or Louisville, or other larger cities regardless of the size or scope of any proposed project.

But that shouldn’t dampen the optimism Owensboro needs to continue evolving, and capitalizing on what’s here now. I’m optimistic about what’s been proposed downtown, but apart from the details, I believe in continuing to look for those opportunities to improve the quality of life for those who live here, and make Owensboro more appealing and enticing to those who don’t. Debate how to go about achieving those improvements, but don’t settle for the idea that improvement isn’t either possible or necessary.

I’ll never understand those who look at this community and don’t feel that sense of possibility and promise.


  1. Josh permalink
    July 9, 2010 8:57 am

    Do you think that the city is dreaming big? I do not. I think they are dreaming to FIT this city with what it’s deserved, with what is needed. After working to help schedule an event that will be happening here in the coming months, we came to realize that more than one hotel is needed. Getting a room in this city on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday is painstakingly problematic in that the rooms will fill up, quickly. Thankfully, our event is scheduled to correspond with Friday, and the weekend, so reserving a room on a Thursday is actually easier.

    Suffice to say, this town has been needing some upgrades, particularly to the downtown area. Yes, I was extremely sad to see the Executive Inn demolished, but after spending the past few months witnessing the cleanup, and the landscape of the area, I’m beginning to be happy about it. With the hotel going up next to the Audubon Area/GRITS Transportation Parking Garage, and the soon-to-be International Bluegrass Museum, I think this is just one step in a direction that can save this city from its own self-destruction.

    Frankly, I would love to see a full-size stadium built in this town. That would be a great improvement, and would have the ability to gather bigger productions, and much more popular bands to the area. Another wonderful thing that we could use, would be an indoor water park. French Lick, Indiana has been operating one, successfully, for years, and it draws quite a crowd, consistently.

    But, I digress, there are some things that people are unhappy about, and we can’t always make EVERYONE happy. At least they are taking the INITIATIVE to get things done, and try and bring this city back to life. There is room for much more improvement than what they are doing, but until we can get a bit ahead, we need to finish what we have already started.

  2. July 9, 2010 9:06 am

    Josh – great points, particularly about the importance of taking the initiative with the understanding that you can’t make everyone happy. Thanks for weighing in.


  3. Josh permalink
    July 9, 2010 9:21 am

    You’re welcome. I have the tendency to be vocal about a few things. Since my place of work is so close in location to the upgrade, I have witnessed, and heard directly about the things that will be going on. Put simply, I am actually VERY excited at the possibilities this can bring our city.

  4. Joe Lowe permalink
    July 9, 2010 10:32 am

    This community is great with or without Downtown Re-development. I have lived here 30+ years and I have a great feeling of Pride. What is missing is “Growing Pains”. While it is true that I dont agree with way some things are handled, at least we are doing something.

    I would prefer more private investment, more industrial development and priority placed on our river as a transportation hub, but it is still a wonderful place to live, work, and raise your kids.

    Judge Haire should be commended for being the “Education Judge” instead of condamned for a much needed smoking ban and a small increase in taxes. He displays vision when he insists on residential development downtown.

    The new Hotel must be on the river, the events center on the river is a waste of very valuable real estate. The Bluegrass Museum cant pay the bills where it is. How the heck can we expect to see 200,000 people yearly in a new, much more expensive location? I doubt if 50 visitors per week pay admission. Still, at least someone is thinking about tourism. I suggest we NOT forget our river heritage but expand on it’s value past and present.

    We may be fumbling around to find the right combination to grow our community but nobody can say we are not trying.

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