Visit the Town Branch Commons website to learn about SCAPE & upcoming public presentations.
By Van Meter Petitt
It is a great pleasure to witness the creative and analytical process unfolding in Lexington around the Arts and Entertainment task force design work of Space Group and Gary Bates.
It has all the ingredients for success: collaboration, vision, deep research, and an open and transparent relationship with the public. In this effort, Lexington is calling upon local stakeholders to work with the best designers in their respective fields to provide our world-class basketball tradition with a world-class venue.
What is truly inspiring about this effort is that it has taken on a much more ambitious scope than a new or renovated Rupp Arena alone. This effort calls upon Lexington to create a conceptual framework to build upon for generations. These are big Daniel Burnham-sized plans that can have an immense and long-lasting effect on Lexington’s future. Everyone who is working hard toward these goals deserves our thanks and praise.
The Space Group project is looking at the downtown as a whole and addressing multiple important layers of its physical makeup: long-term growth for the arena and convention center, expanding the city into the Distillery District, increasing the density of our urban core, connecting to the University of Kentucky campus, and every level of transportation from walking and biking to trains, buses and cars.
What ties all these layers together is one big gesture that connects all the dots and captures Lexington in its timeless essence: the reassertion of the Town Branch Creek in the urban plan.
Believe it or not, Lexington was settled in 1779 along the banks of the middle fork of Elkhorn Creek, a tributary called Town Branch that now lies buried under Vine Street and Midland Ave. It is the reason we have a very long and thin urban core five blocks wide and a mile long.
The ancient and undulating grid is oriented to the flow of Town Branch with no regard for the cardinal directions. Our town is buffalo-trace- and creek-derived. It is what makes our city charming, unique, intimate in scale, and authentic.
There is no other city in America quite like us. What Space Group is proposing reaffirms our unique character and draws a ribbon of the Bluegrass back into the city on the footprint of the buried creek.
Town Branch Trail, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit, believes like Space Group that Lexington can achieve no less than the rebirth of this forgotten creek where our city was born at the dawn of the American Revolution.
At its fullest, the Town Branch Trail forms a bond between city and country, past and future. It will be an 8-mile park-like corridor for bicycles and pedestrians that runs through downtown out to Masterson Station Park.
This narrow ribbon of public space will connect Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden to the east with Masterson Station Park to the west, threading a needle through Thoroughbred and Triangle parks along the footprint of the now buried creek.
We believe that the Bluegrass landscape is our internationally recognized brand and that nothing would better reinforce this special character than a sliver of land and water at the core of our beautiful city.
-Van Meter Pettit is president of Town Branch Trail, Inc.
The Creative Class- trail is a vital asset for attracting and retaining the workforce of the new creative economy.
What is driving the growth of the nation’s most successful communities today?
According to Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon Economics Professor who recently participated in Lexington’s IdeaFestival, the driving force behind the nation’s dynamic growth is the role of creativity in our economy and society. No longer driven by traditional trade routes or smokestack industries, the U.S. economy is now being fueled by a constant process of invention and innovation. The ‘Information’ or ‘Knowledge’ based economy in which we now live and work is growing and changing constantly due to the dynamic influence of a category of people whom Florida calls the ‘Creative Class’. This creative sector of the population has grown dramatically over the last few decades to where it currently accounts for over 30% of the work force. Most important, however, it the fact that this category of creative professionals is now responsible for the vast majority of growth in the U.S. economy. The highly educated and highly skilled individuals whom Florida defines as the ‘Creative Class’ are professionals in core areas of Science, Engineering, Architecture, Design, Education, Arts, and Entertainment, and in the supporting fields of Business, Finance, Law, Health Care, and Management. It naturally follows that the places experiencing the greatest economic growth in the nation are communities with a high concentration of this ‘Creative Class’. What is surprising, however, is that this ‘Creative Class’ is not staying in the traditionally largest or most populous locations. It is migrating to areas of the country where the quality of life is highest. These are locations that have strong educational institutions, ample outdoor or recreational amenities, and vibrant arts and cultural venues. These are places that are open, diverse, and tolerant of a variety of religions, cultures, and ethnicities.
Why does this relate to Town Branch Trail?
Because the creative individuals that Lexington wants to attract and retain for its economic and cultural prosperity are people who use trails. Florida describes in his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, how over the last 40 years the demand for physical exercise has grown enormously for individuals who use their minds for a living. There is a close correlation between trail users and creative professionals. Data compiled by the Iowa Department of Transportation reflects that trail users are on average more educated and have higher incomes than average Americans. A brief survey of the most dynamic communities in the nation will show that greenway trails are an essential ingredient in making these new centers of prosperity attractive to the ‘Creative Class’ responsible for their success.
How does Lexington rate as a creative city?
For metropolitan areas of between 500,000 and 250,000 people, Lexington ranks #9 out of a listing of 63. For more information go to www.creativeclass.org and http://www.dot.state.ia.us/trails/.
Where do we stand in our efforts to provide Lexington with Greenway trails? As an ongoing feature of our newsletters, we will look at benchmark cities and compare our efforts with those of other cities around the country.
Lexington versus Chattanooga, Tennessee
Lexington is 67% larger
Chattanooga 36.8 years
Lexington 33 years
Lexington’s population is 10% younger
Lexington’s income is 24% higher
PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION WITH A BACHELOR’S DEGREE OR HIGHER
Lexington’s percentage is 65% greater
over 15 miles of paved trail with the largest trail being over 6 miles in length.
It runs into the center on the urban core.
approximately 13 miles of trail; 7 miles paved and 6 miles of grass trail. The largest continuous trail is 4 miles on grass at Masterson Station Park.
Despite the fact the Lexington is noticeably larger, younger, more prosperous, and better educated, Chattanooga,Tennessee has built more miles of trails and put together longer continuous distances.
Here’s the good news:
Under the Newberry Administration and the current LFUCG council Lexington has picked up the pace of trail planning and development dramatically. We can optimistically state that the trajectory we are on today will allow us to catch up with the successes of other benchmark cities.
To learn more about Chattanooga’s success log on to:
(This piece was written a few years ago and the totals for Lexington and Chattanooga have undoubtedly increased. We welcome any updated available.)
Recreation, Health and Alternative Transportation.
Envision yourself on a spirited jog from Masterson Station Park to Triangle Park, on a peaceful, shady trail unobstructed by automobiles. You arrive downtown, invigorated with exercise, and refresh yourself at an outdoor café. You then shop at small boutiques for that special gift to take home.
The Trail will provide a pleasant environment for walking, running, biking and roller-blading. The Trail will offer an alternative route to school, work, shopping, dining and entertainment, fostering more vibrant pedestrian tourism in downtown Lexington. An urban recreational trail will attract visitors and provide a necessary, but currently missing, component in Lexington’s urban renaissance. The Trail will connect downtown Lexington’s many commercial, dining, cultural, and public venues with the Convention Center and major hotels, providing a unique recreational outlet for meeting attendees.
Envision yourself standing at the banks of a spring, the same banks where stalwart settlers stood in the midst of the American Revolution and proclaimed this land Lexington and their home. You touch the limestone walls pioneer Kentuckians hand laid into frontier stations and admire restored buildings that were Lexington’s earliest industries. School children walk interpretive trails and receive an experiential lesson in local history.
Much of Lexington’s earliest history occurred along the banks of Town Branch Creek. Dry-laid stone settlers’ houses (circa 1790), an old stone mill (circa 1820), an historic rail line (circa 1830), an historic farmstead (circa 1850), and a former bourbon distillery are all still present beside the creek. The trail will connect Lexingtonians with their rich and varied history via a series of unique and historic landmarks.
Envision yourself listening to the soft gurgle of Town Branch as it winds through healthy masses of native vegetation. You enjoy whippoorwills frolicking in swaths of aromatic clover and cane. The wind tosses the long fronds of a willow tree and you notice chipmunks darting about its base and into the recesses of a dry-laid stonewall. Interpretive signage helps you understand the natural history and ecology of Town Branch.
Town Branch Trail will help restore Town Branch Creek. By making the creek a valuable public asset again, the Trail will discourage the pollution that has made the Town Branch one of the state’s unsavory waterways. Along the Trail we hope to restore native plants and wetlands to better serve wildlife, water quality, and flood control.
Community and Economic Development.
Envision yourself wondering through an open-air market while shopping from a myriad of artisans and organic farmers. You follow a long arcade of willow and cheery trees from a dry-laid stone pavilion and karst-inspired fountain to warehouses renovated into stylish loft spaces. You look further down the trail and old structures appear new again as Town Branch becomes an anchor of civic pride.
The Town Branch Trail will run through urban industrial areas and older neighborhoods that have witnessed decades of decline. By investing in this area with an attractive shared-use greenway trail, Lexington will encourage reinvestment and redevelopment that will connect with and extend the vitality of downtown.