Witt: There’s a renaissance happening locally

Renaissance: simply, rebirth.

There’s a renaissance going on in downtown Winchester.

Richard Harwood voiced his recognition of this in the recent AmbitionFest! gathering.

The historical period designated as the Renaissance lasted for three centuries from the 14th to the 17th.

It is unlikely the one being experienced here now will last that long, nor should it have to. Even if it did, those alive now would not be around to see the end of it.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who fail to see or to notice this rebirth. Some are too busy degrading the vitality of the community to see the good things happening here.

Look around.

There are new stores opening in the downtown area all year long.

Several existing buildings are being renovated or upgraded to make them more available and more inviting for entrepreneurs looking to start a business here, and new owners are purchasing buildings which have been ignored for too long.

Of course, there are many vibrant, useful, friendly and needed businesses in downtown which have been here for some time: D&S Hardware, Dirty South Pottery, The Cairn, Eklektic Alchemy, Mason’s and, of course, Leeds, a real jewel of the area whose own rebirth has undoubtedly influenced the influx of business now being experienced.

The theater has undergone its own rebirth, beautifully renovated and brought up-to-date with repaired mechanical systems and the roof. The myriad of performances being conducted there now attest the theater’s viability and its importance to the community.

Of course, businesses come and go. Such is inevitable and it was as true in the past as it is now, the years when Newberry’s, Kress, Bloomfield’s, Smith’s Shoes, Rosenthal’s, Binders, Nathan’s, Belk’s and JC Penny all vanished.

Part of the rebirth syndrome is most of these businesses have been replaced by new businesses, accountants, attorneys, bakeries, restaurants, variety shops.

There are always things which need to be done to enhance the downtown area to make it a more desirable place to be; replacement of trees, repair of sidewalks, removal of ugly overhead wires, upgrading of traffic control devices (such as what has occurred at the intersection of Main and Broadway streets), and, most especially, renovation of the “high side” steps.

As to this latter issue, the development plan presented about two years ago offered many recommendations for making that side of Main Street more amenable to pedestrian traffic as well as enhancing the visibility of the businesses located there. It is time for some of that work to commence.

Downtown Winchester boasts one of the most beautiful courthouses in Kentucky and recent renovations to the clock tower assure it will continue to be a vital part of the community for many years to come.

As this renaissance continues, it is perhaps not too much to hope for that its insistence will generate additional enhancements on the peripheral streets — Broadway, Washington and Lexington Avenue.

The long–desired removal of a hideous building on Wall Alley has been a positive move, but it should never be the goal of downtown renewal to remove buildings. Doing so leaves unfortunate gaps in the fabric of the place which too often become parking lots.

With forward-thinking public officials and involved volunteer groups, the rebirth of downtown Winchester will continue unabated.

The greatest recipients of this rebirth will be the young adults looking for reasons to remain here and who will further the effort.

Chuck Witt is a retired architect and a lifelong resident of Winchester. He can be reached at chuck740@bellsouth.net.