RICHMOND — When it comes to the future of Richmond and Madison County, dream big.
That was the message Friday at a luncheon hosted by the Richmond Chamber of Commerce.
Approximately 60 community leaders attended the event that encouraged participants to offer their visions for the future of the city, brainstorming ideas from infrastructure and retail development to downtown revitalization.
Other concepts discussed included how to best develop Interstate 75 Exit 83, revitalizing Big Hill Avenue and strengthening the relationship between the city and Eastern Kentucky University.
During the session, attendees broke into small work groups and then presented their ideas for community improvement to the full assembly.
“We would hope that the partnership between the university and the town be more than one of tolerance, of mutual coexistence,” said Robert Blythe, who is both a Richmond city commissioner and former longtime EKU professor. “We need to see ourselves (EKU and Richmond) as authentically partnered.”
Blythe shared a number of ideas outlined by his Town and Gown work group, such as encouraging local business owners to mentor EKU students, establishing a business incubator to encourage student entrepreneurs and fostering opportunities for positive interaction between the university and the community at large.
In one example, Blythe cited a “senior” prom sponsored by one of EKU’s university clubs in which college students would host a social event for the elderly. He said that type of deliberate outreach between diverse groups is critical to building a stronger Richmond.
“We need to decide that Richmond will be the best college town in America and then do the things that will make that a reality,” Blythe added.
Participants offered a number of other possible solutions within their areas of interest.
Those addressing revitalization of downtown suggested constructing a parking garage, improving storefront facades, adding green space and fountains, and encouraging the creation of nonchain local businesses – cafes, bookstores and other retailers.