'Beautification' targeted as OBKY Project celebrates first anniversary

Lelan Hancock

The city of Owensboro this summer is turning its attention to beautification projects that were part of the mayor's OBKY Project citizen advisory commissions last year.

In its 2019-20 fiscal year budget, the Owensboro City Commission allocated additional maintenance funding to allow for green space initiatives along the U.S. 60 bypass as well as money that will be used to improve Owensboro welcome signs along major thoroughfares.

Plus, according to Assistant City Attorney Lelan Hancock, he is working closely with a group of citizens to oversee the painting of at least two new downtown murals.

"I fell in love with the 'OWENSBORO' mural Chamber Young Professionals installed on the side of the (Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitor's Bureau)," Hancock said. "I've been involved in downtown arts projects for several years, so I wanted to see how we could build on that momentum. As you look around downtown Owensboro, you see all these walls that have potential for public art."

Hancock said two murals have already been planned. He is working with local artists to determine the best locations for them. The two murals will highlight Owensboro amenities and Kentucky pride, he said.

Public art has been a cornerstone of downtown development for more than two decades, predicated on the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art's RiverArtes program. The revolving exhibition has primarily been responsible for sculpted art however, and Hancock said wall art presents a unique opportunity to connect Owensboro with young people among whom murals are "Instagramable."

Two renderings and one location have been verified, Hancock said. A second location is still being determined. He said he intends to brief the commission with details on the project on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the city also intends to replace trees that have been damaged by storms along U.S. 60 interchanges. Combined with efforts to improve on the city's welcome signs, Hancock said he believes Owensboro will put its best foot forward for visitors and residents alike.

Beautification was just one small component of the OBKY Project Hancock was assigned when he was hired as assistant city manager more than a year ago. Under his direction, Owensboro has established its first entertainment destination center liquor license, created a Mayor's Mile running/walking/biking path downtown and doubled down its efforts to relight the Glover H. Cary "Blue Bridge." But behind the scenes, he also played a role in the publication of a community financial report, addressing safety and skills among customer service personnel, revamping the city's Neighborhood Alliance program and reinventing public transit offerings.

"People are seeing that things are getting done," said Fred Reeves, one of the A+ Leadership LLC consultants who helped organize OBKY Project citizen councils before their recommendations were handed down to city staff. "I do believe it helps restore public confidence in government."

Reeves and his business partner, former City Commissioner David Johnson, expressed concerns to the Messenger-Inquirer more than a year ago that the OBKY Project would simply become a report the city would shelve and forget, but that has not been the case, he said. An "unbelievable" number of recommendations have come to fruition in a short amount of time, indicating that City Hall is ready and willing to listen to public input, he said.

Austin Ramsey, 270-691-7302, aramsey@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @austinrramsey

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