Category Archives: News

Consultant unveils ideas for reinventing Rupp Arena and surrounding area

Arena just a small part of ideas for all of downtown

By Beverly Fortune — bfortune@herald-leader.com

At a public meeting Wednesday, a consultant unveiled ambitious preliminary ideas for reinventing Rupp Arena and the surrounding area in downtown Lexington.

Architect and urban planner Gary Bates, hired by the city’s Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force, proposed a route tying the University of Kentucky campus more closely to downtown, and a continuous commons area — a central park connecting public spaces from Cox Street to the East End.

Bates told the audience in the Lexington Children’s Theatre auditorium on West Short Street that the ideas are only a beginning. He said his urban-design team wanted community input before making final recommendations to the task force at the end of January about the future of Rupp Arena, the Lexington Center and a proposed arts-and-entertainment area.

The 47-member Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force was appointed by Mayor Jim Gray in March. The group is being financed with $350,000 in private donations. Bates is one of three founders of SpaceGroup, a 12-year-old architecture and urban planning firm in Oslo, Norway.

Ideas that Bates proposed Wednesday night included:

• A commons area running through the public spaces of downtown, specifically along Vine Street, that would include green space, trees and sitting areas. It would have water features to mimic Lexington’s Town Branch creek, which now is encased in a tunnel buried a century ago underneath Vine Street. There would still be room for traffic on Vine.

• A Cat Walk, basically a procession route from the UK campus to Rupp Arena that would go fromEuclid Avenue down South Limestone to Maxwell Street; then west on Maxwell to the High Street parking lot in front of the Lexington Center. The Cat Walk would cut through the parking lot to the arena.

The route would have its own identity, Bates said, possibly with its own lighting and graphics, such as blue paint or giant cat pawprints on the street. This would tie the campus more closely to the arena, a request of the UK athletics department.

• A new purpose for the sprawling High Street parking lot in front of the Lexington Center. The area could include a Fayette County public school for the arts, an outdoor amphitheatre and sports fields that could be used for parking when needed.

• Preserving and finding a new use for the historic First Baptist Church on West Main Street.

• Looking at new ways to use Victorian Square.

• Developing the proposed Distillery District, on the west side of the Lexington Center, with arts venues, music clubs and restaurants.

• “Reskinning” the exterior of Rupp Arena with a translucent covering and changing the interior to expand lower-arena seating, add backs to upper-arena seats, and boost the fan experience with technology, such as an electronic ribbon around the arena and a drop-down scoreboard above the center of the floor.

• Building a new Lexington convention center, perhaps to the west of Rupp Arena into the Cox Street parking lot, and having it resemble a movie studio lot with several buildings linked by glass covered walkways.

• Moving the retail shops now inside the Lexington Center to street level along West Main Street. When there are no events in the Lexington Center, there is no business for the stores, he said.

• Developing a new transportation hub near the Corman Railroad yard to include a Lexington Transit Authority downtown transfer station, a bike path and a depot for a new passenger rail line.

Reactions from people who heard the ideas were mixed.

Lexington architect Jeffrey Stivers said he heard “a lot of really good ideas. I think people are approaching these ideas with an open mind and are having a healthy discussion. That is very positive.”

But Mike Stutland, owner of Artique in the Lexington Center, questioned the feasibility of the vision.

“I love big dreams, but I’m a realist,” Stutland said. “What I see has bigger costs for executing these ideas than our state has resources or a desire to do.”

Construction on the last expansion of the Lexington Center in the early 2000s hurt his business, Stutland said. “I want to see realistic ways these ideas — like moving retail to street level — can be accomplished without putting me out of business.”

Mayor Jim Gray said a committee of the Arena, Arts & Entertainment Task Force has started working on financing. “First we have to determine the scope of the project and get estimates of cost. Then you go into the question of funding,” he said.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/12/01/1978948/consultant-unveils-ideas-for-reinventing.html#storylink=cpy

 

Red Mile proposes a trail to link with Town Branch!

7.5.09

Dear Friends

Great things just keep happening for Town Branch Trail!

With the brilliant symbiosis between TBT and the Distillery District growing over the last year we could hardly have expected more… but here it is!

The Red Mile, Lexington’s historic harness racing track has proposed in its long range planning to create a trail from its 132 acre site between South Broadway and Versailles Rd. along Red Mile Rd. that will connect with Town Branch Trail. This lateral corridor formed by Forbes, Red Mile, and Virginia is a really important way to connect UK campus with the trail and to catalyze this kind of infill development which is so critical for sustainable economic development focusing on downtown and our urban higher education centers.

Big kudos to the Red Mile and Urban Collage for the open and community-oriented development strategy. We very much appreciate it!

Cheers

Van Meter Pettit, AIA
President, Town Branch Trail, Inc.
Story from the H-L below

_________________________________
Lexington Herald-Leader
July 1, 2009

Red Mile proposes new stores, condos- Concept aims to add retail sites to financially ailing track

By Beverly Fortune – bfortune@herald-leader.com

Owners of The Red Mile off South Broadway say they hope that residential and commercial development will give the financially ailing harness track the boost it needs to keep operating.
Conceptual plans for 68 acres of the 132-acre track were unveiled at a public meeting Tuesday night.

Plans include businesses, retail shops and residences at the racetrack, located between Versailles Road and South Broadway in Lexington.

Highlights included:
■ 150 to 200 condominiums and apartments targeted toward young professionals.
■ 300,000 square feet of retail and office space.
■ A hiking trail along Red Mile Road, connecting to Town Branch Trail on Old Frankfort Pike.

The concept calls for preserving historic aspects of the track, including the grandstand, the track itself and an octagonal barn called Floral Hall.

The owners are not looking for a quick fix; rather, they want something that will be sustainable and that will support the surrounding community, attorney Bob Duncan said.

The audience on Tuesday raised concerns about increased storm water run-off created by any development, and the need for improved intersections and turn lanes at Red Mile Road and Versailles Road and at Red Mile Road and South Broadway.

Horse owner Myna Sholty criticized a possible access road between The Red Mile and development on Angliana Avenue. “There will not be enough stables. There won’t be room for a detention barn, maintenance equipment, horse trailers or a blacksmith,” she said. In other words, “They have not allowed enough acreage to put on a race meet.”

Stan Harvey, principal in the design firm Urban Collage, said horses could be stabled on Tattersalls Horse Sales property that adjoins The Red Mile.

And Chris King, director of Lexington’s Division of Planning, cautioned several times that what was presented was a concept. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to run out and build it tomorrow,” he said.
Terry Bryant, owner of Bryant’s Rent-all, located at 875 South Broadway since 1964, liked what he saw. “They’ve gone about it in the right way, getting a lot of public input,” he said.

Scott Smouse, representing the nearby Golfview Estates Neighborhood Association, said, “I think it’s going to be great. I just hope they include a grocery store.” Smouse added, “I don’t see how The Red Mile is going to survive on just racing.”

Red Mile owners approached the city several months ago saying they might consider developing part of their land, King told the audience.

King asked whether the track might discuss their ideas for development with neighbors before filing for a zone change.

“We were very pleased that The Red Mile paid attention to that idea,” King said.

A working group including planners, city officials, representatives of the track and area businesspeople and residents has met three times. The group will meet once more in the next few weeks to write down their concerns and ideas for the development.

Then The Red Mile will file for a zone change to allow a mixed use development. Reflecting its historic roots, the track is zoned for agriculture.

A zone change must be approved by the Planning Commission and Urban County Council.

A timetable for starting the development would be up to the owners, Duncan said.

The racetrack is in the rare situation of being close to downtown and within walking distance of UK.
“It is in a major urban area that has seen a lot of revitalization in the past couple of years,” Harvey said. “The owners want to create a real-estate strategy that will support the racetrack over the long haul.”

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251

Two great downtown stories in the H-L recently

July 2, 2009

Dear Friends:

Over the last week the Lexington Herald-Leader has run a story and a column that really add to the public conversation going on about downtown. The initial concept is that after decades of perimeter expansion, downtown has huge potential for economic development. The next base concept is that a downtown economy is supported by foot traffic and not drive-through commuters.

Fitting into this framework, the first piece by Tom Eblen looks at Charlottesville’ Main Street Mall and how it has become a great civic magnet for their downtown.

The second piece by Beverly Fortune looks at how a block of North Mill Street might make a good one block pedestrian zone in the same spirit. Building upon the sucessful reuse of Cheapside Park for festivals and market days, this seems like a great next step.

See what you think.

Does Lexington have the guts of a Charlottesville or a Boulder, Colorado to close some streets for pedestrians? I sure hope so. New York City just closed Time Square for pedestrians. If they can manage it I think we could too.

Why does this matter to Town Branch Trail?

Because the more dense and vibrant the city, the more useful the trail.

Thanks

Van Meter Pettit, AIA

Lexington Herald-Leader
Thursday June 25, 2009

Support grows for Mill Street pedestrian mall
By Beverly Fortune – bfortune@herald-leader.com

Momentum is growing among downtown merchants and property owners to close North Mill Street between Main and Short streets and convert it to a pedestrian mall, similar to Cheapside.

Closing the street to traffic is a recommendation in the city’s downtown streetscape plan.

“It would be great for my business,” said Eric Boggs, an owner of Goodfellas Pizza on North Mill. “We could put more tables out front. People would love it.”

The Cheapside Entertainment District Association favors the closing. “No one had any negative views at our last meeting,” Boggs said.

Sandy Fields, owner of The Rosebud and Silks Lounge bars, has pushed the idea to close Mill late at night for years. “It would be great for downtown,” Fields said.

Narrow sidewalks and crowds of people spilling out of bars has worried Fields to the point that she hires security to keep customers out of the street at night. “I don’t want anybody to get hit by a car,” she said.

After years of not getting support from city officials, Fields sees the idea gaining traction.
“What we’re shooting for is a central location downtown like 4th Street Live in Louisville, or Beale Street, where you can walk freely throughout the street,” said Bob Estes, president of the Cheapside Entertainment District Association. The district would include Mill and Cheapside, a street closed temporarily last year, then permanently.

“This is the only block of downtown lined with old buildings that face each other across the street. It could be a beautiful pedestrian area,” said downtown developer Phil Holoubek, who is pushing the idea.
Closing Mill would not mean sacrificing street parking. Mill has only four unreserved parking spaces during the day, said owner Sonya Forschner, owner of Ivos hair salon.

“As soon as you park an SUV out there, we’re gone. Nobody can see us. We would have much better visibility with a mall,” she said.

The idea of closing Mill Street has its critics as well. Attorney Carolyn Kenton, whose office has been on the street for 17 years, adamantly opposes permanently closing Mill.

“I have a lot of elderly clients who can’t walk from the Short Street lot down here,” she said. Even with little parking on the street, “cars can stop to let somebody off.”

Banning cars in favor of pedestrians would strengthen the identity of the developing entertainment district in the west end of downtown, proponents say.

“Anything we can do to encourage a European feel to downtown, we should do,” said Len Cox, owner of Graves Cox store in Triangle Center at the corner of Mill and Main. “Mill and Cheapside would make a nice U-shape area for people to walk.”

He predicted it would become “a great destination spot.”

The Urban County Council approved the streetscape plan, but council action is needed to close the street, said Harold Tate, president of the Downtown Development Authority.

“We need to hear from police and fire to see if there are safety issues. And we need input from business owners and property owners downtown,” he said.

Tate said Mill could be closed on Friday and Saturday nights at first, as an experiment.
But he said, “The concept is exciting.”

Urban planner Steve Austin estimates the conversion would cost less than $1 million.

However, a Mill Street pedestrian mall is not in Phase 1 of the streetscape budget, Tate said. That first phase includes new sidewalks and buried utility lines on Limestone from Euclid Avenue to Fourth Street, plus sidewalks and rain gardens on portions of Main and Vine streets.
Proponents such as Austin want to move up Mill Street on the streetscape priority list.

Councilman Jay McChord said one way to pay for closing Mill is to make only partial improvements on Vine Street in the short term. “A Mill Street pedestrian mall would be low-cost, high-impact infrastructure” that could be completed in time for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, he said.

“It could help you create real critical mass activity in your downtown,” McChord said.
Councilwoman Diane Lawless’s district includes the Mill Street area. “I haven’t talked to traffic engineering, but it seems like a simple thing to do. It would be a really neat thing to do,” she said.
___________________________________________________________________________________

Lexington Herald-Leader
Wednesday, Jul. 01, 2009

Tom Eblen: Charlottesville shows potential of Mill Street pedestrian mall

When I first heard about plans to turn the block of Mill Street between Main and Short into a pedestrian mall, I thought it was a good idea.

After seeing how a larger pedestrian mall has transformed downtown Charlottesville, Va., I think it could be a truly great idea.

I went to Charlottesville recently with a group of friends for a bicycle tour. On Friday and Saturday evenings, we went to the Downtown Mall for dinner.

The place was hopping. Hundreds of people were eating, shopping, listening to live music and visiting with each other.

The eight-block mall on what used to be Main Street has 30 restaurants and 120 shops in a mix of old and new buildings. At one end is a children’s museum and an amphitheater that hosts big-name performers and has free weekly concerts by local bands.

The mall has become a big tourist draw and economic engine. More important, it has become Charlottesville’s community front porch. Most of the people we saw there seemed to be locals. Some said they come every week between May and October.

It’s a good example of the urban planner’s maxim that if you build a city to appeal to its residents, others will want to be there, too.

The Downtown Mall was hardly an overnight success. More like a 35-year slog.

As with many American cities in the early 1970s, suburban growth had turned Charlottesville’s downtown business district into a ghost town.

So, in 1975, Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia, got on the bandwagon of cities building pedestrian malls. Many of those malls failed, such as Louisville’s River City Mall, although it would later be reborn as the popular Fourth Street Live.

But Charlottesville stuck with it, trying new ideas and making periodic improvements over the years. The city recently finished a $7.5 million renovation, which included new pavers and free wireless Internet service.

As with most successful developments, good design is key. The former street is 60 feet wide, with pedestrian corridors on each side and cafes in the center, shaded by giant willow oak trees. The trees make the mall pretty as well as comfortable in the summer heat.

The trees’ rapid growth was a pleasant surprise, said Rhetta Bearden, a guide for the local historical society who gave several of us a great downtown walking tour.

Planners knew that Main Street had once been part of “Three Notch’d Road,” a pioneer path from the James River to the Shenandoah Valley that got its name from hatchet marks on trees to blaze the trail. But they didn’t know there were springs beneath it that would make the willow oaks flourish, Bearden said.

If you compare Charlottesville and Lexington, you find that Lexington is a bigger city, with a bigger metro area. It also has more college students.
So what would it take to make downtown Lexington more of a people magnet?

There certainly seems to be public interest. Just look at the growing crowds for Thursday Night Live, Gallery Hop and big events such as this weekend’s Independence Day festivities.

One pedestrian block of Mill Street doesn’t compare with Charlottesville’s eight-block mall, but it fits nicely into a bigger picture. The block is strategically located between Cheapside and Victorian Square, both of which are having success recently with restaurants and bars.

With a little money and imagination, Mill Street could become the heart of a downtown entertainment district that would pull University of Kentucky students a few blocks north, Transylvania University students a few blocks south and a variety of Central Kentuckians in from the suburbs.

My guess is that a new skyscraper wouldn’t do nearly as much to revitalize downtown Lexington as a bigger community front porch.

Lexington could get back passenger rail along the Town Branch Trail!

6.28.09

Dear friends:

In the spring of 2007 Town Branch Trail, Inc. brought together a few architects to sketch out what might be possible in the back of Rupp Arena where the Newtown Pike Extension will run across the Town Branch Creek over to to Versailles Road and beyond. As a lark we called it “NEW TOWN BRANCH” because the Newtown Extension has no real ‘newtown’ destination (it’s a wide spot in Scott County) and because it was crossing the Town Branch where we could create a new section of Downtown. We felt that this is some of the most important 10 acres of land in all of Lexington because: A) it is new road frontage on what will be our busiest urban corridor, B) it is currently an urban dead zone where Downtown can grow to connect with Town Branch Trail and the Distillery District, and C) because it is where we can create a railroad depot attached to the Lexington Center that can carry passengers into our gorgeous countryside to Midway, Frankfort, and beyond.

We pitched the urban design ideas to the Mayor, DDA, RJ Corman, and several other groups and individuals… whoever else would listen. It was not clear at the time that all the moving parts could be brought into an optimal resolution. We are thrilled that the leadership of the LFUCG, Lexington Center, RJ Corman, and the Newtown Pike Extension have been so receptive and responsive. It gives us great cause for optimism about Lexington’s future. Below is a story sketching out one component of what is still a developing plan. What is equally exciting is that the LCC will be creating a small area plan to look at all of the potential for this very important new district of downtown. Let’s hope there will be ample opportunity for public input.

For a look at the 3-D model we produced in spring of 2007 go to:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gringo_en_mexico/sets/72157603915997707/

The H-L article from a few weeks ago is attached below:

Dinner train possible from Lexington to Frankfort and beyond

Lexington Herald-Leader June 19, 2009
By Beverly Fortune – bfortune@herald-leader.com

A dinner train with boarding at Lexington Center and an excursion train between Lexington and beyond Frankfort could be in operation as early as next year, with the potential for passenger service between the two cities later.

The announcement was made Thursday at the Lexington Center board meeting by Fred Mudge, chairman of the board of R.J. Corman Railroad Group, based in Nicholasville.

The railroad came seeking permission to negotiate a long-term lease with Lexington Center to extend its tracks under a new bridge that will be built over Cox Street and Town Branch and 700 feet onto Lexington Center’s Cox Street parking lot.

Corman needs the additional space for turning trains around because a portion of its rail yard — on the west side of Cox Street — will be taken by Phase 4 of the Newtown Pike extension.

Extending the track makes it possible for a passenger train to get closer to downtown, the convention center, hotels and existing parking.

And that opens the opportunity for Corman to run a dinner train and an excursion train. The railroad currently operates My Old Kentucky Dinner Train out of Bardstown.
A dinner train from Lexington would most likely go to Frankfort, turn around and come back, Mudge said. An excursion trip might extend to Bagdad, a small community west of Frankfort, then return to Lexington.

“Taking the track onto Lexington Center property would not prevent us from using the Cox Street lot for parking,” said Bill Owen, president and chief executive officer of Lexington Center.

Neither would it diminish other uses for the lot, such as the July 4 Red White & Boom concert. In recent years, an amphitheater, IMAX screen and a farmers market have been talked about for the Cox Street site.

And it creates possibilities for marketing train excursions to convention attendees.
“I don’t think this precludes anything the Lexington Center wants to do there,” said Mike W. Hancock, state highway engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Owen said that he “enthusiastically” supported the railroad’s request.

A dinner train could be the first step toward establishing passenger service between Lexington and Louisville. “Corman has conveyed to us their desire to start construction right away and create the opportunity for passenger train service as soon as possible,” Owen said.

An excursion train could travel the existing freight track between Winchester and Louisville. For higher-speed passenger service, the line would have to be upgraded extensively, an expensive proposition, Mudge said.

The Corman Group operates six small, private railroad lines in Kentucky.
A contract for work on Newtown Pike, including the Cox Street bridge, will be awarded in July. Construction is expected to begin shortly after that, said James E. Ballinger, chief district engineer for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

The new bridge will extend from near the Salvation Army property on West Main Street, over Town Branch, to Manchester Street, paralleling the Jefferson Street viaduct.

“It became apparent if we provided clearance under the (Cox Street) bridge for train cars, there could be benefits to the city,” Hancock said.
What opportunities might open up for regular passenger service between Lexington and other cities “we don’t even know” at this time, Hancock said. But if gas prices continue to climb and there is a limit to the number of cars on highways, there will be a future for rail traffic, he said.

High-speed rail plans in the Midwest and California appear to be frontrunners for getting $8 billion in stimulus money, according to federal criteria released on Wednesday.

Eight Midwest states have cooperated to promote a network of rail lines, with Chicago as the hub, that would join 12 metropolitan areas within 400 miles. Louisville and Cincinnati would be part of that network.

Passenger service is not part of the Lexington plans, Owen said, but the city should position itself to take advantage if an opportunity comes along.
Extending the tracks creates “some sizzle for the present, a lot of potential for the future,” Owen said.

Vice Mayor Jim Gray, a Lexington Center board member, said it was important to address “current and future opportunities of integrating the railway with the downtown, the civic center, the Manchester Street Distillery District and the Town Branch Trail.”
The Lexington Center board voted to include a request for a consultant to do a small area plan for the Cox Street area; at the same time, it backed the idea of negotiating a long-term lease with R.J. Corman.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251.

Town Branch Trail a top priority of Commerce Lexington

6.12.09

Dear Friends of Town Branch Trail,

I had a great opportunity to visit a world-class trail city recently on a trip to Madison Wisconsin with 258 other folks from Lexington on a Commerce Lexington Leadership Trip. It was a great chance to take in a city that has invested heavily in trails and has a great quality of life to show for it. This is the fourth leadership trip that I have attended on behalf of Town Branch Trail, Inc. and it has been a fantastic opportunity to advocate for trails in places where they have been so successfully exploited. I want to share with you a letter written on behalf of Commerce Lexington by Woodford Webb, current board chair. In it he lists the priorities generated by the trip attendees and how Town Branch Trail is recognized as one of the most important initiatives underway in Lexington. What is equally exciting is that Town Branch Trail is an integral component of a number of other great projects like Legacy Trail, Lexington Distillery District, and Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden! Connectivity and cooperation to make Lexington all it can be! Many thanks to Commerce Lexington for its creative trips that have greatly raised public awareness for the importance of trails.

Van Meter Pettit, AIA

Forwarded letter from Woodford Webb, Commerce Lexington Chair below:

A MESSAGE FROM THE COMMERCE LEXINGTON INC. CHAIRMAN

I would like to personally thank those of you who participated in this year’s Leadership Visit. I hope you enjoyed the trip and learned a lot of great things from Madison. Some of you may have received this yesterday, but not everyone who went to Madison is on Commerce Lexington Inc.’s main e-mail distribution list. I wanted to make sure you were properly thanked.

As the 2009 Commerce Lexington Inc. Leadership Visit came to a close on May 20th at the Monona Terrace Convention Center, I couldn’t help but think about all that we had seen and done while in Madison, Wisconsin. We heard from many of Madison’s most influential leaders and entrepreneurs and saw first-hand what Madison offers its residents by participating in tours of its most recognizable features.

Still, I continued to come back to presenting sponsor Linda Rumpke’s “I” for “implementation” pledge, which she mentioned at the opening of our Madison visit. Yes, we recognize that Bluegrass Region is a great place to live and work, but how do we make it even better? How do we leverage what we’ve got so that more young people want to stay in Lexington, start a business in Lexington, or raise a family here? As generational consultant Rebecca Ryan said, “What do we want to be homesick for?”

While we hope to take a few ideas from the cities we visit, these trips enable us to take a hard look at ourselves as a community. We all agree that there is plenty that we can improve about the Bluegrass, but the annual Leadership Visit also opens our eyes to the things that we are doing well. Sometimes we overlook the positive steps we’ve taken as we become embroiled in the things we believe are wrong with our city.

According to Rebecca Ryan’s “Seven Indexes of a NEXT City,” Lexington’s scores met or exceeded the average scores of most of its benchmark cities, and in the categories of Cost of Lifestyle and Earnings, Lexington is ahead of Madison. However, we still have work to do within the other five indexes, including Vitality, Learning, Social Capital, After Hours, and Around Town, to become that “NEXT” city.

Many people don’t realize that many wonderful things that are related to those five indexes are already occurring. In the area of Vitality, Lexington has made a commitment to building more bike and walking trails, and the city is making major strides to improve its water quality for the future. In the area of Learning, FCPS Superintendent Stu Silberman’s efforts have been well documented, the University of Kentucky is well on its way to becoming a Top 20 research university, and Dr. Michael Karpf is guiding the new soon-to-be completed University of Kentucky Hospital.

With all the additions of new music and performing venues and other downtown nightlife establishments, we have made great strides in the After Hours index thanks to the ongoing efforts of the Downtown Entertainment Taskforce led by Tom Martin. With things like the Yellow Bikes program, the re-appearance of trolleys downtown, and the enhancement efforts of LexTran and Rocky Burke, we are making progress in the Around Town category. Improvements to our streetscape and signage will only bolster these efforts. Social Capital was identified as a strong point for Lexington when compared to other major cities, but we can certainly do more to involve and engage young people and produce more diversity throughout the decision-making process. The ongoing efforts of the Urban League and the city are helping us get to where we need to be.

While our Leadership Visit has resulted in many quality programs and initiatives over the years and influenced things like downtown development and streetscape design, we can do better at implementation. We currently have so many opportunities, ideas, and projects just waiting for that extra nudge to come to fruition. What exactly is our “low hanging fruit,” or what projects are realistically attainable and quickly?

Some of the priorities identified in a survey of participants during the Madison trip included:

MORE TRAILS AND PARKS:

Legacy Trail – Primary Champion: Steve Austin – Of the $10 million needed to implement this entire package, the Legacy Center already has $7 million committed. The resulting gap seems to be achievable if the right group of supporters can get behind it.
Town Branch Trail – Primary Champion: Van Meter Pettit – The plans are ready, and a portion of this project has been implemented. This likewise seems to be low hanging fruit.
Isaac Murphy Memorial Garden – Primary Champion: Councilwoman Andrea James, and some of the others involved are Committee Member Andy Barr and Steve Austin of the Legacy Center. The state is donating the land on 3rd Street, and the plan calls for a financial need of $2 million. The aggressive design and plan could be completed in stages, or maybe a combination of city and private donations (e.g. horse farms, thoroughbred industry, landscaping companies) could be brought together to implement a workable plan.
Phoenix Park – This could definitely be improved. The Courthouse Area TIF proceeds would be eligible to completely rework this park. It could be dramatically transformed with below grade parking and a completely new park above with fountains, stage areas and other improvements.
CONTINUED DOWNTOWN LEXINGTON ENHANCEMENTS: There’s a lot of great work going on here, especially by Harold Tate and the Downtown Development Authority, as well as the Downtown Lexington Corporation led by Renee Jackson. Great momentum is occurring in this area with so many wonderful events downtown, the implementation of trolleys to connect UK/Transylvania and Main and Vine, the Yellow Bikes initiative, many more venues popping up around town, and later bar closing times. Many people have indicated that what is necessary to further improve downtown includes the gradual return to two-way streets to make downtown more pedestrian friendly, below ground power lines, and the implementation of a BID (Business Improvement District) to enhance the current atmosphere and create a true marketing budget with which we can further spread the word and promote downtown as a key destination for all who live or work in the region.

“GREEN” INITIATIVES: As we heard from one speaker in Madison, being “green” is not a trend, but a mentality. Madison embraced this sustainable way of life some time ago, and has not looked back. Madison has 42 LEED certified downtown buildings, shared community car programs, mandatory recycling, green buses, bike riding, carpooling and more. In Lexington, we need to collectively encourage developers to utilize green techniques not just because it is good for the environment, but because it is “smart business.” Green initiatives sa_ve money in operating costs over time. Also, we need to encourage LFUCG to further study our current recycling center and determine if a new center could or would perhaps be a revenue enhancer. Could we make recycling mandatory on some level for our community?

DISTINCTIVE WATER FEATURE: Just about every city we have visited recently has one thing in common – an attractive water feature, whether it’s a natural body of water or man made one like Oklahoma City or San Antonio. We’ll have to accept that Lexington was not settled on a navigable body of water. One thing that continues to come up after each intercity visit is the possibility of Lake Lexington or some sort of “reflection pond” water feature downtown that would include a bike/walking path, outdoor amphitheater, ice skating rink in the winter, and maybe even a parking structure underneath. I believe this project would enhance the West side of downtown and the Town Branch area dramatically. And, it would put the Manchester Street/Distillery District on “waterfront property.”

PERFORMING & VISUAL ARTS ENHANCEMENTS: There are a ton of possibilities that can further enhance are arts community, and Jim Clark with LexArts is always bubbling with great ideas that are very possible with the right support.

Many of these ideas/priorities are posted at Rebecca Ryan’s blog site, which has been set up exclusively for us to share and track ideas. I would encourage anyone who wants to add ideas about Lexington’s future to do so at http://lex-next.blogspot.com. This site will remain active until July 3, 2009.

I mentioned at the close of the Madison visit that the implementation phase is the responsibility of the community as a whole. Myself, Commerce Lexington, and even the city cannot accomplish individually what we need to do collectively. As Linda Rumpke added during her welcome message, “let’s hold each other accountable” as we transform Lexington into the “next” city that we want it to be.

While we have all been impressed with Oklahoma City, Boulder, Austin, and Madison in recent years, we know that we absolutely don’t want to be an Oklahoma City or an Austin or even a Madison. We simply want to be the very best Lexington that we can be. To that end, I would ask two questions: What do “we” as a community, want to accomplish over the next year, and how can each of us contribute to this effort?

Finally, I would like to thank all of those who participated in or sponsored the 70th annual Commerce Lexington Inc. Leadership Visit, as well as recognize the efforts of our planning committee and the CLX staff, which put the trip together. I would also like to thank Tom Eblen of the Lexington-Herald Leader and Tom Martin of Business Lexington for their coverage of the Madison trip. We need our local media to both document these trips and help keep our community focused on the big picture.

It was a tremendous honor for me to lead the Madison trip, and I look forward to all that we will accomplish together in the future.

Sincerely,

Woodford Webb
2009 Commerce Lexington Inc. Chairman
President, The Webb Companies
wwebb@thewebbcompanies.com
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