A group of Eastern Kentucky University students is offering several ideas to spur activity in downtown Richmond. A forum was staged Tuesday night in Eastern’s student center.
It was promoted as an EKU student conversation with Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes. Organizers say it was the first time a sitting mayor participated in a program to solicit thoughts from Eastern students.
Mayor Barnes admits no big changes will happen overnight, but like a puzzle a bit at a time. “So, you know the vision would be maybe more student houses closer to Richmond. When we get vacancies maybe open restaurants up. You know, there are just things that we can do, but if you don’t have a vision, you can’t get the process started,” said Barnes.
Students gathered at a number of tables to brainstorm on what they would like to see in downtown Richmond. Stacey Lawrence, who’s from Richmond, would like to see more nightlife options void of alcohol. “Personally, I don’t drink and I have friends that don’t, but yet when we want to go out with our friends, we have no where to go. So, I think it would be really cool to have an entertainment venue where we had music and billiards and karaoke and all those same things from the bar atmosphere, but without it being centered around alcohol,” said Lawrence.
Other ideas posted during the forum included developing a water feature along water street, a mini grocery, and more green space downtown.
Eastern President Michael Benson says a reworking of Lancaster Avenue would be more than an aesthetic move. “Get those utility lines buried, widen it, make it more pedestrian friendly. I mean it’s incredibly narrow, I drive it every day. And as you come off Main Street, make it more pedestrian accessible, kind of a promenade that then takes you into campus,” said Benson.
Benson says there are already plans to establish a new campus entrance off Lancaster.