Author Archives: Van Meter Pettit

Barrel House Distilling Company supports Town Branch Trail

A New Craft Distillery started in the old Pepper Distillery along the Town Branch Creek is supporting Town Branch Trail with a portion of its proceeds. We are thrilled to have their help and wish them the best at reinvigorating the distilling industry in Fayette County. Check out a great article in the Herald-Leader:

Here’s their website:

Here’s their story:

Barrel House Distilling Company, Lexington’s new Craft Distiller, is owned and operated by Frank Marino, Jeff Wiseman, and Pete Wright. We started work on the project during the winter of 2007, and are about to release our inaugural product – a premium vodka, Pure Blue, Which is the first Vodka made in Lexington. Our micro distillery is located in the Barreling House on the old Pepper Distillery in historic Lexington, Kentucky. We are the first tenant in this zone of the development. As native Lexingtonians and Bourbon lovers, we strive to continue the tradition of Pepper Distillery in producing fine spirits.

What We Produce

Barrel House Distillery currently is producing four spirits: Pure Blue Vodka TM, Kentucky River Rum TM, Woodshed Whisky TM, and Barrel House Bourbon TM. Our goal is to create beverages which stimulate the senses, and help others enjoy our passion as much as we do.

Barrel House Distilling Company supports the revitalization of the Lexington Distillery District and the development of the Town Branch Trail. These projects bring Lexington back to its roots – when the Town Branch of the Elkhorn Creek played a vital role in the growth of Lexington, while supplying water for the local bourbon distilleries.

Given this heritage, we are proud to announce that a portion of the proceeds of each bottle of distilled spirits we sell will go to the Town Branch Trail project. For more information, please visit:

New Year Update


Dear Town Branch Trail supporter,

On behalf of the board of Town Branch Trail, Inc. I would like to extend our deepest thanks for your support in this passing year. At this time of New Year, holidays, and thanksgiving we would like you to know that with your support we are working to make a beautiful trail and by extension a beautiful city. Members of the community like you are invaluable to us in making this project a reality. In this tenth year of our efforts we have witnessed a watershed of breakthroughs. Here below are some of the biggest:

1) The first 1.8 miles of Town Branch Trail are nearing completion. By springtime the last half-mile will be finished. It has been a joy to watch the trail grow and become well used. McAlister Stone is installing beautiful drystone mileposts, furlong posts, and benches crafted from “Kentucky Marble” quarried near Shakertown. We are also installing three more of our environmental education signs in the spring. Look for a big dedication/celebration in early summer 2009.

2) The rest of the west side of TBT, from Alexandria Drive to Newtown Pike Extension is being contracted for feasibility and trail design. An additional mile of the trail will begin construction over this next year. The section next to proceed in construction will connect McConnell Springs Nature Park with Town Branch Creek and run west up to New Circle Road. We will share these plans with you as they develop.

3) Sections of Town Branch Trail are included in both TIF projects approved by the LFUCG Council and are awaiting approval by the state. TIF stands for tax incremental financing, a funding mechanism that would allow the creation of a trail through the Manchester Street Distillery District as well as to make a Vine Street Linear Park through the downtown core. These TIF projects represent miles of what TBT has been proposing as trail for many years and it is a great endorsement of our concept that the city is making these great strides. Nothing is guaranteed even with the TIF approved; private developments will need to take shape for these opportunities to be realized, so we will keep you posted as it unfolds.

4) RJ Corman Railroad Group has proposed a 15-mile rail-with-trail that would run from Manchester Street beside Town Branch Creek all the way to Versailles on the shortline that the company owns and currently operates. At TBT, Inc. request the city has commissioned a feasibility study to determine how this might be accomplished. If this rail line were to be fully exploited, it would take pedestrians and bikers all the way to Lawrenceburg over the Kentucky River on Young’s High Bridge for a distance of 22 miles (Though compelling, this is not a simple matter: there are four owners and a massive 100-year-old iron bridge of undetermined structural status). Because this spectacular line connects two distilleries and runs behind Keeneland and right into TBT, we felt compelled to step forward.

5) Another LFUCG Masterplan adopts TBT and our concepts as major components of their recommendations. In the first downtown masterplan Ayers Saint Gross recommended transforming the Vine Street corridor into a continuous linear park based on our trail concept plan. The new streetscape masterplan by KKG avoids the big linear park idea on Vine Street but takes up the idea of a major plaza behind Rupp Arena that we first pitched a year and a half ago as NEW TOWN BRANCH. They also suggest opening up Vine Street as a greenway, but at the request of the city, in a less emphatic way. Although we are not in perfect agreement with all that these outside consultants have suggested, by in large, it is fantastic work for Lexington. For our goals and efforts it has been a big help to get repeated support and emphasis from these successive masterplans. We will be continuing our mission to get the idea of a linear park through to government and community leadership. Watch for this in the spring.

6) Town Branch Trail, Inc. made the transition to a full-time nonprofit. We saved a fortune over the years with donated labor and borrowed space, but the demands for time and attention grew too great for this to continue. The community outpouring has been nothing short of spectacular, especially considering the financial climate. We have set a goal of raising $500,000 by 2010 to run the organization and in our first year we have pledges of $200,000 with cash donations of over $65,000. Thanks to all of you who have been so very generous. Your gifts are being well used and are deeply appreciated.

7) Our Environmental Education Project is poised for completion in 2009. Based in research and successive grants, TBT has created a series of signs to be installed along the trail to inform the general public about basic watershed information and how the built environment impacts the natural system of urban waterways. In addition, we are currently editing a 3-part package of video, print, and online material to be distributed for use throughout Bluegrass middle school classrooms. With interviews from experts in history, water quality, equine, and bourbon distilling, this project should be a great way to raise youth awareness of our special region. It is tailored to fit KERA curriculum precisely. Look for updates on this in the coming months.

8) TBT has been working closely with the Blue Grass Community Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and the Legacy Project to create a series of links between the proposed North-South Legacy Trail and our West-East Town Branch Trail. Our goal is to provide the city with a seamlessly connected trail system that encircles the Downtown and takes bikes and pedestrians into our famed Bluegrass Horse Country.

With great thanks and best wishes for 2009,

Van Meter Pettit, AIA

TIF explained

By Beverly Fortune
Lexington Herald-Leader
Sept. 11, 2008

How TIF works
Tax-increment financing allows a portion of state and local tax revenue created by new private development in a blighted area to be used for public infrastructure improvements.

City officials identify an economically depressed area, and plan public improvements , such as sewers, streets, parking and art.

After identifying the project and developing a plan, the city pledges future tax revenues from the project to pay off bonds used for the up-front costs. The city also approaches the state and asks it to pledge its tax revenues.

An investment company sells bonds to raise the funds for the public improvements.

The bond money is used to pay for the improvements.

A portion of new tax revenue generated by the project’s success pays off the bonds. New taxes are not levied on residents.

— By Beverly Fortune
This piece was published by the Lexington Herald-Leader and can be found at

Distillery District unveils plans for TIF

Distillery District needs $81 million
By Beverly Fortune
Lexington Herald-Leader
Sept. 11, 2008

The proposed $190 million project along a 28-acre industrial corridor would include a small bourbon distillery and museum, 277 condominiums, 83,000 square feet of office space, 700 parking spaces, 118,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants and a 125-room boutique hotel. It would be developed in three phases, to be completed in 2012.

Between new construction and adapting old structures, the district would revitalize downtown’s west end, said developer Barry McNees.

McNees told the city’s tax-increment financing task force that to succeed, the Lexington Distillery District must have $81 million in TIF money from local and state government.

Copies of an analysis by C.H. Johnson Consulting on the financial feasibility of the project were given to task force members.

“My goal today is to talk about the fundamental impact this project will have on this community, which will be transformative to the west end of downtown,” McNees said.

“This will be a destination for local citizens. It will be a tourism magnet that will bring new tax dollars to Kentucky and Lexington,” he said. “The economic impact can be huge.”

McNees said he and his dozen partners have already invested $9 million buying and renovating several industrial buildings. “TIF is the missing piece,” he said.

The Old Tarr warehouse that once housed 8,000 barrels of bourbon sat empty for years before McNees began converting it into an events venue that can hold 2,000 people. They also own the abandoned James E. Pepper Distillery down the street.

About $27 million of the $81 million in TIF funds would go to rehabilitate old buildings. Portions of these structures will incorporate public facilities such as museums, theaters, art galleries, a children’s development center and a non-profit commercial incubator.

Now the area generates $122,000 annually in state and local taxes, or $3.6 million over the next 20 years, McNees said. Once redevelopment begins, taxes would bring in $148 million over the same period. More than 3,500 jobs would be created, including 2,600 construction jobs, according to the feasibility analysis.

The city’s TIF consultant, Jim Parsons, said he liked the Distillery District’s chances of being accepted as a TIF project by the state. “On paper, it’s a good project. It clearly meets the definition of a blighted area,” Parsons said.

The state has not yet approved any smaller, mixed-used TIF projects like the Distillery District. In 2007, five TIF projects costing more than $200 million got state approval. Parsons said the state wanted to get a smaller mixed-use project approved to demonstrate to other cities how it works.

Getting the city’s seal of approval with a TIF application will give the project credibility and help line up financial investors, McNees said.

Tom Blues, whose council district includes Manchester Street, said he was impressed with the project’s creativity and how it will revitalize surrounding areas, such as nearby Irishtown. “A great deal of planning and imagination has gone into this,” Blues said.

Blues also appreciated McNees’ straightforward approach. “In two meetings we’ve had with Barry, he’s answered tough questions honestly and in great detail,” he said. “There’s been no stonewalling, no secretiveness, no evasive answers.”

For council member Andrea James, the Distillery District “is really what a TIF should be, a blighted area that really needs a TIF to succeed.”

“I’m impressed that the tax increment could be what they’re stating it,” she said. “This looks like it is an ideal project for TIF.”

Commissioner of law Logan Askew was asked to prepare a resolution defining the Distillery District’s TIF boundaries, the 16 qualifying public infrastructure projects and their expected costs and have it ready for the task force’s next meeting on Wednesday.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.
This story was published by the Herald-Leader and can be found at

Developers say TIF essential to Distillery District

By Jim Jordan
Lexington Herald-Leader

Incentives known as tax increment financing will be essential for the Distillery District project, developers told the Urban County Council on Tuesday.

”Without TIF, this project is not going to happen,“ said Brooke Asbell, a partner in the project to create an entertainment district.

The reason is that the streets west of Lexington Center must be improved, electric lines will have to be buried and drainage problems must be solved for redevelopment to happen.

”The cost to do that … is where the economics end up not working for us,“ Asbell told the council.

Tax increment financing would allow developers to recover money spent for such public improvements from the new tax revenue generated over time by their project.

The size of the public commitment to the project isn’t known because the data is incomplete, Asbell said. Once feasibility studies are finished, developers will return to the council with a TIF request.

For that reason, he wanted to prepare the council by presenting an overview of the project Tuesday.

TIF, which has never been used in Lexington, first came to public notice earlier this year when developers of the proposed $250 million CentrePointe project said they might need as much as $70 million in TIF incentives.

Later estimates put the TIF total closer to $35 million, but that total might not be final.

The Distillery District, first announced last year by majority partner Barry McNees, would be along Manchester Street roughly between Cox Street and Forbes Road.

Two former distilleries, bourbon warehouses and new buildings likely to be built in the area would contain restaurants, entertainment venues, loft apartments, businesses and offices.

The area might have a bourbon museum, a working distillery and other attractions that would qualify it to be added to Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail, a network of seven distilleries that have become tourist attractions.

Asbell described the Manchester area today as ”blighted,“ ”scary“ and ”not very appealing or attractive, but the elements are there for a reclamation project.“

The former distilleries are just west of the planned Newtown Pike Extension and could become a new gateway to the city with the planned improvements, he said.

One goal would be to get the area closest to the Newtown Pike Extension redeveloped in time for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010.

Stan Harvey, a principal in the urban planning firm of Urban Collage Inc., said the effect of the Distillery District would be to extend downtown Lexington to the west.

The project would be anchored by the former Old Tarr Distillery on the east and the former James E. Pepper Distillery on the west. New development could occur around and between those bookends.

Harvey said the developers envision the district as ”a pretty unique and dynamic … 24-hour place“ that would have ”one of the best restaurant sites in the city“ along the Town Branch, which flows near the former distilleries.

Asbell said the developers expect to hold a Distillery District community forum in late July or early August that would explain the project.

”If you can tell people what you are doing and take the mystery out of it,“ you are more likely to get their cooperation, he said.

This post comes from and the Lexington Herald-Leader