Neighbors hear plans for new BCTC campus in Lexington

bfortune@herald-leader.comJuly 15, 2009 

Plans for a new 48-acre campus for Bluegrass Community and Technical College on the site of Eastern State Hospital got fairly positive reviews from area residents Tuesday night.

The plans were unveiled in front of an audience of about 60 at the North Lexington YMCA on West Loudon Avenue.

The hospital site is bounded by Newtown Pike, Loudon Avenue, West Fourth Street and railroad tracks. Eastern State is the oldest surviving, continuously operating mental hospital in the country, according to Janie-Rice Brothers with the Kentucky Archeological Survey.

The 2008 fall enrollment of BCTC was 12,146 full- and part-time students. BCTC president Augusta Julian said she could see that number doubling within a decade.

Plans call for the campus to eventually have about 14 four- and five-story buildings, with a total investment of $500 million over two decades.

Some of the highlights of the campus master plan include:

■ Improving the intersection of West Fourth, Newtown and Georgetown to be pedestrian-friendly, and creating opportunities there for mixed-use development.

■ Redirecting the Legacy bike and pedestrian trail so it wraps around the campus, instead of going along Loudon Avenue.

■ Preserving the historic iron fence and front lawn of the hospital that have remained basically unchanged since 1816.

■ Preserving several of the nine historic structures on the property, especially the Old Laundry Building, perhaps turning it into a visitors center with a pictorial history of the hospital.

■ Making Fourth Street a two-way street.

■ Pushing surface parking to the back of the campus along Loudon Avenue, and building parking structures along the railroad track on the east side.

■ Creating a pedestrian main street through campus.

Parking is a concern for neighbors, but they also voiced optimism that the new campus would improve their neighborhood.

Michael Haskins, president of the Georgetown Street Neighborhood Association, said he saw a possibility that students and residents would compete for on-street parking spots.

Except for that, Haskins said, "Overall, I think it will be great for the neighborhood."

The Georgetown Street neighborhood is large but underserved, Haskins said, adding that he hoped the campus would attract restaurants, coffee shops and a grocery store to the area.

Stan Harvey, a principal in the Urban Collage design firm, said there would be opportunities for public and private partnerships to benefit both the school and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Harvey told the attendees their feedback was important. "We want public input because it is early enough in the process to refine and modify plans," he said.

There will be a second public meeting in the fall after site plans have been completed.

Dora Hudson, executive director of the West End Community and Empowerment Program, said he hopes to see partnerships develop between BCTC and grassroots organizations like hers that serve area students who "have the possibility of going to BCTC."

"I would like to see more connectivity between the campus and the existing neighborhood along Georgetown Street," Hudson said.

In televised remarks to the group, Mayor Jim Newberry said moving BCTC would create "remarkable opportunities" for the city by forming a higher education triangle with Transylvania University and the University of Kentucky.

"Right in the middle of the triangle is our downtown ... with its business and managerial opportunities," he said.

After seeing the master plan, Julia Martin, on the board of the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center on Georgetown Street, said, "I'm excited. There's no reason why it can't happen because (the land) is available."

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251

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