• 59°

Gateway at Year 1 lauded as winner

The new landscaping at Gateway Centre.

The new landscaping at Gateway Centre.

With the inaugural year almost under their belts, economic development leaders say only positives have come to Ironton from the first phase of the Gateway Centre.

Late in 2014 the first two businesses — Frisch’s Big Boy and Holiday Inn Express and Suites — opened at acreage at Ninth Street after abandoned buildings there were razed and the area re-landscaped.

“The Gateway Centre is just such a wonderful doorway for our city,” Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, said. “Not only do the businesses feel that way about it, the community is feeling very good. I hear positive comments about the hotel and at Frisch’s Irontonions and county residents are always there.”

When the Big Boy restaurant opened in August, it made record sales for the company.

“And there is no negative impact on the restaurants downtown,” Dingus said. “Melini’s and The Depot continue to do extremely well.”

Leaders are planning a formal dedication for early June as work on center amenities such as gardens, a fountain and a kiosk finish up. At the kiosk is information about the Scenic Byways Program and Lawrence County history.

“We have to do some final plantings of annuals once we know the frost is gone,” Ralph Kline, assistant executive director of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said. “Ironton In Bloom is going to feature this on their backyard tour.”

The area between the two businesses has been developed into a park designed to be a place for visitors and residents.

“It is going to be a destination for our area,” Dingus said. “If we can get golf cart rentals, we will play up the historic houses and churches of our community. Each piece is slowly coming together with the help of a lot of people. The leadership has pulled together.”

Kline anticipates more businesses coming to the center including one that could use the now closed armory as a venue.

“We would like to grow in that area,” he said. “We have three remaining lots that could accommodate larger businesses or a combination of smaller and larger. It has not been an easy project, but it has been a very successful one on how you can look inward and redevelop. At one key interchange it puts a new front door to the city.”