Nov 202017
 

Town branch by rheotaxis, part 3

 

By Danny Mayer

Reveal, Clean, Carve, Connect is a strategy that ties the nuances of Lexington’s rich substrata to development potentials on its surface.

–From Reviving Town Branch, Scape/Landscape Architecture Team

In February, 2009, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) delivered preliminary approval for the creation of two Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts in downtown Lexington: the 14.25 acre Phoenix Park/Courthouse development and the 25 acre Distillery District. Combined, the two developments projected to cost their developers $490 million to complete, of which the city and state had committed to rebate up to $135 million—or about $3.4 million per downtown acre.

Map from http://www.townbranchcommons.com/

Continue reading »

Jun 012013
 

On the Fayette commons, part 3

By Danny Mayer

Don’t look to me for virtue, for high-minded feats or elevated speech that flows in a stream of lustrous silver—when cutting is my nature, meandering my path. Find me instead lowdown, landscape in tow as I take the way of least resistance, draining the uplands, purging the slopes.

From “The river issues a statement regarding its watery ethos,” by Richard Taylor

The Scape/Landscape Architecture design plan entitled “Reviving Town Branch” presents a compelling vision for a linear downtown urban park. The plan divides the Lexington, Kentucky, Town Branch watershed into four design phase/areas: Reveal (Rupp Arena), Clean (Vine Street to CentrePointe), Carve (CentrePoint to Thoroughbread Park), and Connect (the lower East End to Isaac Murphy Park).

Map from http://www.townbranchcommons.com/

Map from http://www.townbranchcommons.com/

The Scape map, like all maps of the area, lends itself to a certain reading. The stream’s textual and cartographic flow, Reveal/Clean/Carve/Connect, makes movement from left to right, upstream, seem natural. Reading it, one might assume that Town Branch’s source flows from a revealed Rupp, passes through a cleansed then carved downtown, and thence arrives, trickled-down rainfall depending, to a textually disconnected Isaac Murphy park.

To get Town Branch, or at least to get a different Town Branch, one that takes hydrology and history as its compass axes, it seems one must read the map backwards: from right to left, downstream, East End headwaters to Distillery District emergence, connection to carve, and thence to clean and reveal. What follows is a stab at that downhill backwards reading, what I’ve been calling (with many thanks to High Bridge river rat Wes Houp) “Town Branch by rheotaxis.” ~ d Continue reading »

Apr 222010
 

Liberate CentrePointe

Lexington is now entering its second summer growing season without breaking ground on the CentrePointe block. With the exception of some stealthy picnics, an Irish festival and a couple minutes—total—of stolen sports action, an entire downtown city block has been rendered off limits to an entire city for nearly one-and-a-half years, an urban dead zone with suburban lawn aesthetics.

For this pathetic state of affairs we should blame ourselves. We spent a good amount of time last summer imagining the CentrePointe of our dreams, but not so much time, as Tom Eblen might say, doing something about it. When CentrePointe went out to pasture, so did we.

With that in mind, we call on Lexington residents to demand and claim their right to the block.

Follow the lead of those everyday artists who make the city come alive through their papered announcements stuck on wooden electric poles and abandoned magazine racks. Draw up your own plans for the CentrePointe block and staple, paste and etch them into the planks of the CentrePointe fences that keep you out. Paper the block alive once again with your poetry and prose, your cartoons and artist renderings. Record and inscribe the block’s past and its future, what it once was and what it can be.

One idea is easily discarded, torn down, forgotten. Twenty can carefully be swept under the grass clippings. But two-hundred, two-thousand ideas covering the CP fences? That is something else, something else altogether.

But we mustn’t stop with symbolic action. We must demand that the space be used productively. This year. And we should demand this in public and as loud and as often as possible.

Dudley Webb has already stated that he will not disturb the CentrePointe site until after the World Equestrian Games. The area is essentially rendered inert for the summer and part of fall. This is an unacceptable use of that central space. The best productive use of CentrePointe is not as an unusable and excessively large front lawn—its current situation. We demand more.

The rights of private property are not inviolable. They must be questioned, tested and at times even trampled upon. We–everyone but the small group of people who own the land–can no longer remain inactive on the false premise that unused Webb property is sacred.

We demand a public garden whose main purpose will be to help feed the poor, hungry and homeless–people whom many Lexingtonians finally discovered last week during the Creative Cities Summit when Bill Strickland spoke about his experiences in poor Pittsburgh. Such an idea for the block is surely something that city residents can support—at least those who have been talking in public and in print, on the campaign trail and in conference meetings, of the need to merge “creative” acts with issues of social justice. Having our community leaders support and lay the groundwork for such a venture—to demand and not just to ask for it to happen—could be quite a thing to see.

The public input of our civic, creative, agricultural and community leaders will be important as the rest of us—either with or without the support of those leaders (though hopefully with it)–begin to till the earth and plant our seeds. Our job is to do the most creative (and simple) of acts: doing. The immediate future of CentrePointe need not be decided by them. It can be decided by you.

Who will be the first to paper the fencing? Who will take the first soil sample? What farm groups will offer their time to utilize a 1-season garden in a place that is ground zero for public visibility? What politicians will offer political support? Who will transgress that most sacred of laws, private property, and demand that the city be run according to its inhabitants’ needs—and not the failed desires of its owners? What cultural centers will publicly endorse trespassing to do something they themselves know is right? What support networks–legal, social, economic–will we demand and work towards in this city, in this summer of growing?

Jan 122010
 

By Patrick Smith

Bright, frigid, and windy, the sidewalks of downtown Lexington were nearly deserted last Friday after a winter storm dumped several inches of snow on the city. What seemed like a normal winter afternoon in downtown Lexington was offset by the tense, giddy energy of the few pedestrians making their way along Main St. and milling around the Courthouse lawn.

Photo by Patrick Smith

Cold? They don't know the meaning of the word.

Suddenly, in what seemed like a case of spontaneous mass hysteria, groups of people descended on what appeared to be Lexington’s smallest horse farm, the proposed sight of the Webb Companies’ CenterPointe skyscraper, and began pelting each other with fistfuls of snow at exactly 12:30 P.M.. Within seconds, thirty to forty people had hopped the fence and began struggling to form the light, fluffy snow covering the ground into projectiles. Laughter and shouts of joy were punctuated by the hollow thumps of well-packed snowballs landing direct hits onto thick winter clothing, as participants struggled to make more ammunition and locate familiar targets in the crowd. Continue reading »