Mar 172013
Mayer's Town Branch Commons Design Challenge. Photo by Danny Mayer.

Mayer’s Town Branch Commons Design Challenge. Photo by Danny Mayer.

NoC editor Danny Mayer is sponsoring a Town Branch Commons design challenge. He’s calling on area commoners to come up with an affordable and functional design to redevelop a portion of  151 East Vine Street, a .62 acre publicly owned surface parking lot that runs downtown between Vine and Water Street in Lexington, Kentucky. He will present the winning idea to a meeting of the city council, at which time he will formally request public funding for the project.

The idea for Mayer’s challenge began after the NoC editor read about a city leader’s recent admission that closing down surface parking lots on Vine Street is “clearly implementable” and “within the realm of do-ability.”

“I think it’s great,” Mayer said, “that city leaders are finally acknowledging the benefits of transforming under-used government property into human-scaled places of interaction and mobility. I want to do my part to encourage more of that thinking.”


The 151 East Vine Street challenge location is a uniquely positioned surface parking lot sitting along the proposed Town Branch Commons, an urban park running atop downtown Fayette Urban County’s Town Branch Creek. The area is located within a block from city hall, the Kentucky Theater and the Downtown Lexington Central Public Library.

In addition to these downtown attractions, the challenge site sits at the confluence of a number of transportation nodules. Upwards of 15,000 automobiles daily pass by along Vine Street. Across Vine, more arrive by bus at the Lexington Transit Center (the hub of the city’s bus system). At the park’s rear, a newly renovated city parking structure facing Main Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard will soon provide parking access. Above it, the location is bisected by the Martin Luther King viaduct, a popular north/south bike route connecting UK to the northside.

Mayer's Town Branch Commons Design Challenge.

Mayer’s Town Branch Commons Design Challenge.


Successful submissions should include a design plan that covers one-fourth of the parking lot area. The design must incorporate the area covered by the Martin Luther King viaduct.

Submissions should also include a cost proposal for the project that does not exceed $70,000. We expect attention to be given to how the design integrates and enhances the local environment, the potential for any non-monetary capital (donated skills, time, etc.), programming, and anything else we missed.

Mayer’s award-winning panel of judges

Submissions will be judged by Mayer’s five-person design team. The team specializes in generating low-cost, high-value re-developments of public space. This Mayer is an urban walker, a mover and a shimmie-shaker. And so is his team.

Deadlines, etc.

Mayer will present the winning submission at a meeting of the City Council. He will request that money for the project comes out of the $250,000 publicly-funded salary paid out to twice-retired UK administrator Frank Butler for overseeing the Rupp Arena Opportunity Zone plans. Project work can expect to commence January 2014. Sketch renderings may be hand-drawn, CAD-certified, or of any other medium, but all written text should be printed. Deadline: May 24. Submit submissions to 430 N. MLK, Lexington, KY 40508, or electronically to

If you would like to drop off submissions personally, discuss an idea, or otherwise meet with the authentic Mayer, he will be holding open office hours through May at Al’s Bar (Limestone and Sixth) on Wednesday nights from 5:30-6:30 pm.

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