Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: Town Branch Commons a path to prosperity

Plan fits lexington; will spur investment, redevelopment

February 10, 2013 

A conceptual view of the Cox Street parking lot portion of the proposed Town Branch Commons in Lexington. The rendering was provided by SCAPE/Landscape Architecture, which won a competition to work on the commons. SCAPE next will create a detailed drawing of the commons and include engineering information. Image provided.

For those stalwarts who've been advocating for the Town Branch Creek to become the reborn centerpiece of our city and a green conduit to link the city with our world-famous rural landscape, the recent developments have been beyond wonderful. It's like dreaming of waking up on a beach in Jamaica and then waking up on a beach in Jamaica.

It is a dream come true for the tireless optimists who dare to believe that Lexington holds the fullest promise as an exceptional place to live, work and pursue dreams. I know I speak for many when I say that the Scape/Landscaping proposal for the Town Branch Commons is a dream fulfilled. The greatness of this proposal springs in large part from a fully realized appreciation for what is beautiful, authentic and unique about our city and its native landscape.

One of the main reasons that Scape was chosen from among the other exceptional firms is that they used our local scale, hydrology and landscape aesthetic with skill and intuitive appreciation to compose their design. Like a well-tailored suit, the proposal looks and feels as if it were made for us and is not superimposed from elsewhere.

As much as I and others have used the Riverwalk as an exemplar for Lexington's potential, one of the reasons it is so successful is that it perfectly fits the context of San Antonio. What Scape has designed for the Manchester-Vine-Midland corridor holds a similar promise for Lexington as the Riverwalk has achieved for San Antonio. Unique places require unique solutions.

Why is this ambitious proposal so important for Lexington's future? Here are a few reasons that come to mind:

Lexington is encircled by a rural landscape for which it and the state are internationally renowned. Our downtown, by comparison, lacks a character or charm equal to this perimeter. The urban renewal-era cityscape as it exists in much of our downtown is not capable of providing the requisite conditions for Lexington to achieve its promise for growth and prosperity.

Having sprung from a colonial village along a creek into a long and thin downtown, Lexington is one of few American cities without a body of water or piece of compelling landscape to give it a sense of place.

Connecting the downtown from east to west and giving it an internal coherence is critical to catalyze high value infill redevelopment. Providing a link for bicyclists and pedestrians from a beautiful urban landscape to our famed bluegrass countryside is essential to optimize access to our signature pastoral identity. Like a well in the desert, our downtown is so small and intimate that every option for maximizing its quality and economic potential is essential to pursue.

If Lexington follows this proposal in a timely fashion, high-value investment and rising economic opportunities for the community will soon follow. Greenville, S.C., provides an ideal case study for this reality.

The Town Branch Commons concept builds on the compelling plans of the Rupp District by Space Group of last year and brings them into clearer, more specific focus. These integral plans say as much about Lexington as they do about the design work.

This is a great moment to live in Lexington.

This auspicious trajectory is made from many people and organizations sharing ideas, resources and credit for our success. This could happen only in a great city filled with talented and committed citizens working hand in hand with very responsive and dedicated civic and political leadership. It is said that success has a thousand parents.

Let us give thanks to one another for this exceptional moment and then press on to get these plans realized.

Van Meter Pettit, a licensed architect, founded Town Branch Trail Inc.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service