New life for old Ashland mill

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Friday, February 01, 2008

CromanMIllAshland.jpg The old Croman Mill site in Ashland is the teardrop-shaped area to the left of the railroad tracks near the bottom of this early 1960s photo.

ASHLAND A long-defunct lumber mill in Ashland may be on its way to becoming:

A. A humming high-tech business center
B: A home for low-impact industries
C: A mixed-use development
D: Some combination of the above

It may be a little early to choose, but one thing is certain: The wheels have begun to turn on a process that will bring new life to a long-idle island of industrial land in Ashland.

“The whole process is designed to look at all of these ideas and not really rule any of them out,” says Maria Harris, planning manager for the city of Ashland.

Harris is talking about a master planning process recently kicked off for the old Croman Mill site, a 65-acre wedge of land that’s been empty since the mill closed its doors in 1996. It is the largest remaining piece of industrial property in Ashland.

Last year, the city received a state grant to jump-start the process, which will include stakeholder meetings, public workshops and, ultimately, city adoption of a redevelopment scenario later this year.

While there has been talk of affordable housing or mixed-use developments, Harris says the primary purpose of the site is employment generation.

Sandra Slatterly, executive director of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, says the site seems like an ideal place for recruiting progressive industries attracted to Ashland’s educated populace, high-speed fiber-optics network and cultural amenities.

“We really see [the site] being reserved for industrial uses, but not necessarily traditional industries,” she says. “We see that it could be a dynamic space for smaller, cleaner businesses.”                                                                              

JON BELL


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