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Our View: Embracing downtown's future

The biggest downtown development project in Ashland's history is poised to move toward completion after the Planning Commission gave its approval earlier this month. The project will be an exciting addition to Ashland's central core and is exactly the kind of development the city ought to be encouraging as it evolves from a small village into something more urban.

The first phase, Plaza Central West, is finished. The second phase, Plaza Central East, will add a three-story, 32,200-square-foot brick building with three commercial spaces and 15 residential units. Among other things, the Planning Commission allowed the two buildings to be connected while retaining the appearance of separate structures.

A third phase will be added later, bringing the total complex to more than 60,000 square feet of floor space encompassing 29 residential units in addition to retail space.

Objections to this project and to its previous incarnation known as Northlight primarily centered on its size and fears that it would destroy the "small-town feel" of Ashland. But unless this city is prepared to lift its longtime refusal to expand its boundaries,  the growth that will come will happen in the center of the community, and building will go up, not out.

Ashland will never be a teeming metropolis with soaring high-rise buildings. But three-story projects with housing units above ground level are the wave of the future. Seeing a town you love change and grow is never easy. But freezing a city in time is impractical and unrealistic.