Town Branch Commons would transform downtown Lexington

Lexington, Ky. – Downtown Lexington, from east to west, would be transformed from a place largely dominated by asphalt and blacktop to an oasis of greenspace and flowing waters under the design for a proposed “Town Branch Commons” selected by the Lexington Downtown Development Authority.

SCAPE_TBC_Board2SCAPE/Landscape Architecture of New York won a competition intended to attract ideas from some of the world’s leading urban landscape designers.

“The jury had five excellent choices, but SCAPE clearly was above the competition,” said Jeff Fugate, President and COO of the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, which sponsored the competition. The Authority’s Board of Directors approved the winning entry on Monday. EHI Consultants of Lexington is also working on the project.

The design competition received significant support from Michael Speaks, Dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design. Speaks and Lexington Mayor Jim Gray were instrumental in attracting some of the world’s leading urban design firms.

The winning team, led by Kate Orff, an assistant professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and a partner SCAPE offered a design that integrates history, geology, and ongoing development initiatives into a thread of new public spaces along the path of Town Branch as it weaves through Downtown. Lexington was settled along the banks of the creek in 1775.

“We’ve been inspired by the realities and conditions on the ground and by the potential of water to inform the design of new urban landscapes,” Orff said. The SCAPE design did not come with a price tag. It features flexibility and Orff added that her team looks forward to working with citizens and neighborhoods as the design evolves.

The SCAPE team envisions a linear collection of pocket parks, rain gardens, pools and fountains stretching from Winchester Road and Midland Avenue, through Thoroughbred Park, down Vine Street, around Triangle Park and completely replacing the Cox Street parking lot behind Rupp Arena.

A rendering of the plan indicates a large body of water directly behind Rupp – a potential issue for the arena’s day to day operations which routinely involve the ingress and egress of tour buses and road tour tractor-trailers, often arriving in caravans of more than twenty such vehicles. Patron parking, however, would be accommodated in new parking structures, their locations not yet clear.

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