City working with several groups to give downtown a few upgrades

Anyone who has been in downtown Huntington lately probably noticed that it's gotten a few upgrades.

Mayor Brooks Fetters says the city has been working with a number of groups and merchants to give the area a facelift.

"It all started in 2012, when we (the City), the downtown business association and the City Services Office had a conversation about what could be done to make Huntington the best version of itself that it could be," states Fetters. "We started by focusing on what we call the main gateways and corridors into the downtown area."

He adds that the idea was prompted in part by the realization that an attractive and vibrant downtown area is critical to the success of any town.

"We also felt that it was important that we made the place attractive, not just for visitors but for the residents as well," says Fetters. "With that in mind, we started making some improvements."

Improvements included planting 100 trees around the area, including along Old US-24. The trees were donated by Our Sunday Visitor as part of the company's 100th year celebration.

"We also replaced all the trees along Jefferson Street with Chanticleer Pear trees," says Fetters.

The parking lot located on the corner of Market and Warren streets has also rehabbed, and for a good reason, he adds.

"Starting June 5, Huntington will have its own farmers' market, every Wednesday, starting at 4 p.m.," Fetters says. "That's something a lot of people having been asking about and looking forward to. We collaborated with the chamber to get that put together."

Other improvements include adding bike racks and additional benches downtown.

"Most people may not notice that there are new benches because we got ones that matched the existing ones," Fetters notes. "The planter boxes will be stained later by volunteers from the Main Street group, headed up by Rose Wall and the City Services Department, supervised by Bob Caley."

The improvements are not just for aesthetics, either, he adds.

"We converted most of our street lamps to more energy-efficient LED bulbs and replaced the globes that didn't match," states Fetters. "We don't plan to stop there with the improvements either. We've got plans for the next three years."

Plans for this year include installing street lights and planting trees on Washington and Market streets between Warren and Cherry streets.

Next year the plan is to run street lights south across Etna Avenue and in 2015, north up Jefferson Street to St. Mary's Catholic Church.

"We also installed directional signs, to lead visitors into the downtown area," states Fetters. "The signs are 24x24 inches tall and located along the main gateways, Etna Avenue, North and South Jefferson and Guilford streets, West Park Drive and Old 24."

He adds one of the most encouraging aspects of the improvement efforts is the collaboration of all the resources and people involved.

"It's great to see that people have taken ownership of helping to make Huntington look better," Fetters says. "For a long time private business owners and others had been frustrated with using their resources to help spruce the place up, while nothing was done with city-owned space. We decided that if the city owned it, then it should look like someone cared, and that's the mindset we have adopted."

While there is a lot more yet to be done, he adds that he hopes that people are proud of the improvements so far and that they will support the downtown district and its merchants.

"We have a great downtown area and its success is linked to the success of our community," states Fetters. "So I would encourage residents to come on down; ride your bikes and take a walk downtown."