New Year Update

12.31.08

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
President

Building Trail

Phase I, the first mile and a half of the trail, is now completed. Phase II, the second phase, has been bid and is currently under construction. Phase III of the trail, the next one mile section, has been funded, and has been sent out for bid for design. We look to see construction begin in 2009. Phase IV and V are in the stage of feasibility study and conceptual design. See our latest map for how Phase V will dovetail with the Manchester Street Distillery District. For a closer look, go to McConnell’s Trace at Long Branch Rd. to see our first mile in place.

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.

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

CITY AND STATE APPROVAL
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.

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

CONSTRUCTION
The bond money is used to pay for the improvements.

TAXES COLLECTED
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 www.kentucky.com

Distillery District unveils plans for TIF

(LFUCG TIF Task Force) SEES PLANS
Distillery District needs $81 million
DEVELOPER CITES ECONOMIC IMPACT OF VENUE
By Beverly Fortune
Lexington Herald-Leader
bfortune@herald-leader.com
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 www.kentucky.com

Phase V

We are working with the Distillery District TIF proposal to align Town Branch Trail through this historic and promising part of downtown Lexington. View our map (a 1.9 megabyte PDF document) by clicking on the map below:

TBT Phase V