Special to HuntingtonNews.Net

The construction of the Great American Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio , by ironworkers i.e. Men of Iron. Courtesy You Tube/Cincinnati.com


Imagine this... here!

by Austin Sanders

Huntington is the seed of a metropolitan area that is home to over a quarter of a million people. Our city is home to world-class museums, theaters, parks, and people. There is no question; Huntington is truly a city of excellence.

In my view, our excellence is engraved in our past, present, and future. So, it frustrates me when I’m told that Huntington’s brightest days are behind us, and that we must lower our expectations. I often think people forget our community’s rich history.

Huntington was once viewed as a city that could join Chicago as one of America’s largest cities. During the construction of the West Virginia State Capitol, architect Cass Gilbert spent an enormous amount of time in Huntington. Gilbert was impressed, and once said that Huntington could eventually join Chicago as one of America’s largest cities (Huntington was growing at a rate nearly three (3) times that of Chicago).

This was a time when Huntington did not limit its expectations, and the heavens were our only limit. We approached issues with a “go big or go home” mentality. In my view, we must once again, grasp this same mentality. Downtown Huntington has an abundance of resources, resources that could once again create a downtown fueled by innovation and economic prosperity.

Huntington faces the same challenges as many American cities. In order for Huntington to harness its true potential, we must be able to attract and retain young people. We must be able to attract and build companies that are going to create good-paying jobs.

Today, in real time, our neighboring cities of Lexington, Cincinnati, and Louisville are experiencing a boom in their local economies. People and businesses alike are deciding to relocate to these cities due to major investments in their downtown areas. In my view, we must compete with these cities for economic survival. So, it is with that that I present to you a very radical argument; Huntington is long overdue for a new skyscraper.

Make no mistake, times are tough and you will often hear people argue that we shouldn’t do something in these “economic times”. I absolutely disagree with this argument. These economic times require us to make investments in our future.

In these economic times, we must invest in things that we know are going to grow our economy. In these economic times, we must be bold when others are scared. The downtown area is the economic engine of our region, and has a dramatic impact on our surrounding neighborhoods.

Major investments in the downtown area without question will strength the core of our great city. It is through investing in our downtown area that we as a city will be able to attract the businesses necessary to create jobs and economic prosperity in Huntington.

Cincinnati’s Great American Tower was built during the beginning of the Great Recession. At a time when others were scared Cincinnati was bold. Today, at just 4-years-old, over 90 percent of the commercial space inside the tower has been rented. The tower has attracted many companies to Cincinnati, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, and creating a more vibrant environment for small businesses. It is my view that we must follow Cincinnati’s course.

I look to our downtown and vision the same city as Cass Gilbert. Huntington is truly blessed with an abundance of resources. We currently have the most vibrant downtown within 100 miles. We have one of the most accessible and walk able downtowns in the country.

Marshall University is a world-renowned institution of higher learning with an incredibly bright future.

Likewise, plans to revitalize Harris Riverfront Park are currently in the works, and our Big Sandy Superstore Arena continues to be ranked as one of the best venues in the country.

Presently, Huntington is home to a series of vacant lots throughout the downtown area that are beyond prime real-estate. These properties are ideal for the very development that I am encouraging, and could very well serve as the future economic backbone of our region.

I fathom to imagine a stronger way for Huntington to show the rest of the world that we are a city of excellence than to construct a new iconic skyscraper that will redefine the landscape of our city. We must look at this potential project with a “go big or go home” attitude.

I challenge our city to go beyond our current record holder of  fifteen stories and use modern engineering to construct a building that will dominate our skyline.

Achieving a greater Huntington is a task that does not come easy, but it is a task that we can achieve if we all work in unity. We must no longer operate with the mentality that Huntington’s brightest days are set in stone, but rather perched on the corner that lies ahead.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW "Steel," a feature film shot in 1979 in Lexington, Ky.