Downtown Circus - Part 2

By: Lori Mitchell
By: Lori Mitchell

Many believe Bowling Green’s downtown area will inarguably be the future entertainment haven for South Central Kentuckians. That’s where Circus Square and the proposed Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center are planning to build.

While city leaders and much of the community support these projects, others say they are a little concerned about what they could mean for their business. This is where planners say they one day envision townhomes, office space, entertainment venues, restaurants and shops. All will make up what’s called “Circus Square.”

The city hopes to create an exciting community in its downtown core that will be “the” place to live, work and play. Supporters say Circus Square will revive downtown, restore its history and attract new retail stores. But others are worried it could damage their existing business, forever.

Melissa Tarrance, owner of DJ’s Upholstery says, “I have people everyday ask, ‘When are ya’ll going to leave?’” Melissa hopes she won’t have to and so far she hasn’t been told any differently. Together her and her husband Terry own the business which was started by her father-in-law in the early 70’s.

“We were ready to put up a fight because we’ve been here for a long time,” Melissa states.

Mayor Elaine Walker says the city has not used eminent domain to force businesses out of the downtown area and doesn’t plan to. The city has already purchased several businesses in order to make room for this future development.

“What has happened over the years is that residential has moved out and industrial has moved in so we’re trying to bring residential back, which will bring back commercial, which is what we need, to support life downtown,” Mayor Walker explains.

D.R.A. Executive Director, Cheryl Blaine states, “You always hear opposition. Some people don’t like change, but change is inevitable.”

Melissa says she isn’t completely against Circus Square. If it goes off as planned, she believes it could actually help her business by bringing more people downtown. But if someday forced to sell, Melissa says she worries about how they would afford rent somewhere else.

Right now Melissa pays $400 a month in rent. She says she’s checked around town and can’t find anything as affordable. Melissa says shutting down the family business would never be an option.

“My husband has been here 18 years and this is the only work he’s ever done. He’s been here since Grad School,” Melissa states. She says she hopes the city is right. New developments will bring more people downtown, but she’ll just have to wait and see.

Melissa explains, “This is your livlihood? Yea, and I’ve got two kids, this is their livelihood too.”

Cheryl Blaine says “Circus Square is” a 10-year project, but is ahead of schedule. Demolition has already started and several buildings are being cleared from the downtown site. Blaine hopes much of the work will be completed on Circus Square in time for a ribbon-cutting next August. In the meantime the city is trying to come up with tax incentives that will help lure new businesses downtown.

To view the Dowtown Site Options map click here.

And to view the Proposed Redevelopment Area Map click here.

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