Re-invisioning the area around Newport, Kentucky's World Peace Bell

World Peace Bell - Newport, Kentucky Author's Collection.
In downtown Newport, Kentucky is the landmark World Peace Bell. At 12 feet in both height and diameter, as well as a weight of 66,000 pounds, it is the largest freestanding bell in the world.

(With clapper and support, the bell rings in at nearly 90,000 pounds).

The bell was was originally proposed as the Millennium Bell and was to be the largest in a massive carillon within the unbuilt Millennium Freedom Tower complex. That complex, as noted in an earlier article, was scrapped but the Bell persisted and rings daily at 11:55 a.m. The unique ring-time is so that the bell is easily differentiated from the sounds of the bells in the nearby courthouse and churches.

The bell, and the accompanying museum, are great sites in downtown Newport, Kentucky. But they disappointingly sit at one end of a big ol' parking lot. (On the site once stood the old Newport Finance Building which was demolished for that unbuilt Freedom Tower.) There is also a lovely memorial (even closer to the parking lot) to the fallen firefighters of northern Kentucky.

The bell was installed to ring in the New Year 2000 and the firefighters memorial was erected a few years later. Economic downturns intervened and these terrific community assets have languished at the edge of a parking lot.

But all that could change...

Rendering by Rachel Compte of proposed use. Can You Picture It, Newport?
A group of citizens envisions this space as being a central park for Newport. Drawings, including the one featured above, are available on the aspirational and uber-local urban design site Can You Picture It, Newport?.

The artist pictures the space being a community space that could host a weekly farmers market, movie nights, and yoga. These community proponents laud the installation of both the fire fighters memorial and the World Peace Bell and desire "to make the setting worthy of what [those symbols] represent."

Can You Picture It, Newport? offers a disclaimer called "reality check," too. Fully acknowledged are the limitations: the property is privately owned. A recent article in the Enquirer notes that neither the city nor the owner are actively looking to develop the property (in this way).

But it is nice to citizens sketch and dream about making their community a better place. Hopefully, some of those dreams can be made reality. After all, I couldn't agree more that both the fire fighters memorial and the World Peace Bell deserve a worthy setting.
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