Short Street is getting a makeover in preparation for this fall's Breeders' Cup.
The alterations — designed to make the bar and restaurant corridor more pedestrian-friendly and attractive — will be temporary but could become permanent if the pilot project is successful.
Using paint, sidewalks will be extended by 8 feet in some areas to add space for pedestrians to navigate the already cramped walkways. Planters and benches will be added to those areas, known as "bump-outs."
Traffic on the one-way street will be realigned from Broadway to Limestone, but there still will be two lanes. Some streetside parking will become diagonal spaces to preserve spots in the congested area.
"The great thing about it is that it's a pilot project," said Brandi Berryman, a project manager for the Lexington Downtown Development Authority. Berryman has spent more than a year on the redesign.
The area will be a focal point for the Breeders' Cup Festival from Oct. 24 to 31. It will include a variety of events.
"This is pedestrian enhancement, but it also deals with some long-standing service issues in that area, such as loading zones and trash," Berryman said.
The Urban County Council agreed Tuesday to allocate $183,000 for the pilot project. A final vote will come in a few weeks. Berryman said most of that money will go toward street resurfacing, paint for the bump-outs and restriping lanes. The city has planters in storage that can be used, and garden designer Jon Carloftis has agreed to donate his expertise and some plants, Berryman said. Keeneland, host of the Breeders' Cup, has expressed interest in sponsoring some of the new amenities.
Other improvements will include bike racks, benches and additional signs.
As more bars and restaurants have opened on Short Street, the area has struggled to manage a smellier problem: garbage. The green trash and blue recycling bins can crowd sidewalks, emit odors and look unsightly. Berryman is proposing putting all the bins in central locations, with decorative fencing to disguise them.
She said she hoped to start construction in July. The pilot project will run through October.
"I will be talking with property owners and merchants during the pilot period to see what's working and what's not," she said.
If the pilot project works on Short Street, it could be replicated in other areas of downtown, Berryman said.
She gave the Urban County Council an overview of the project during Tuesday's work session. Some members had concerns about moving from parallel to diagonal, or angled, parking. People will have to back into those spots. Similar angled parking in Chevy Chase has not been used very well, said council member Bill Farmer, who owns a jewelry store in that area.
To preserve parking spaces and loading zones for bars and restaurants, angled or diagonal parking was seen as the best option. The street will lose only one parking spot because of the changes, Berryman said.
Another key concern is the Lexington Farmers Market, whose Saturday market at Fifth Third Pavilion is a downtown mainstay and a major draw.
Josh England, marketing manager for the farmers market, said some of the changes would alter the way vendors may unload and park along Short Street. July is one of the market's busiest times; the market swells to 50 vendors from 22 counties.
"It's a huge logistical issue," England said. "It's hard to plan for that change on such short notice."
He said the market had been included in the conversation about Short Street changes only in the past six or seven weeks. Berryman said the plan had to be approved by the fire department, traffic engineering and other city departments before she was able to show it to farmers market officials.
England and Berryman are working to find a nearby parking lot or other land that could be used in July, August and the fall. That site would be in addition to the market's traditional home at the Fifth Third Pavilion.
"We are hoping to get all of these logistical issues worked out," England said.
Debbie Long, owner of Dudley's on Short, said she was encouraged that the street, which has become the hub for downtown entertainment, is getting some much-needed attention and investment. The kinks can be worked out if the changes don't work, she said. Traffic flow, parking problems and getting delivery trucks to the restaurants and bars on Short Street have been longstanding issues, she said.
"I think it's a great idea," Long said. "We want it to work, and we want it to be more pedestrian-friendly and attractive."