Lexington and Main Street Baptist Church have come to a tentative agreement that would address some of the church’s parking needs and allow for the planned expansion of the downtown convention center and the building of a proposed 10-acre park, city officials said Tuesday.
The church’s concerns about the loss of parking on a lot next to Rupp Arena has slowed the proposed transfer of the Jefferson Street bridge from the state to the city. The city has said it wanted control of the bridge in order to tear it down to make room for the expansion and renovation of the convention center, which is attached to Rupp Arena. In addition, there’s a fundraising push for $30 million to build the 10-acre Town Branch Park. The Rupp Arena parking lot will be removed to make room for the park, if fundraising is successful.
Under a tentative agreement unveiled at Tuesday’s Council work session, the city and the Lexington Center Corp., which owns the convention center and Rupp Arena, have agreed to keep part of that parking lot open for the church to use during the expansion of the convention center, which is scheduled to begin in 2018 and will likely take between 18 months and two years to complete.
“At no time will Main Street Baptist be without parking,” said Brandi Peacher, a project manager for the city.
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In addition, the city has helped Main Street Baptist reconfigure its current parking lots. The church has buildings and parking on both sides of the current Jefferson Street bridge. That will give the church additional parking spaces on its own property. There are currently 26 parking spaces on church property. That number will increase to 37. In addition, plans call for 46 parking spaces where the Jefferson Street bridge now stands. Those parking spaces will be metered for the public but will be reserved for exclusive church use on Sundays and Tuesday nights.
In addition, the Lexington Center will have 300 spaces in a newly built garage as part of the convention center expansion. The church can work with Lexington Center to get access to some of those spaces for Sunday services.
“Jefferson Street currently acts as a divide for the church,” Peacher said. Taking the bridge down will improve access and safety for church parishioners who currently have to cross Jefferson to get to its chapel and other church buildings. “This will be a means to offer a safe connector between the properties and a safe entry into the park.”
Peacher said they would have to draft a memorandum of understanding between Main Street Baptist and the city. The church needs to negotiate a separate memorandum of understanding with Lexington Center on the use of the garage. Main Street Baptist officials said they are still working with Lexington Center.
“We have some concerns about the likelihood of getting some of those 300 spaces,”said Elder Wayne Cornelius of Main Street Baptist. “We still think that we are short.”
Councilwoman Angela Evans said she doesn’t understand why the park did not make some minor modifications to its proposed design to allow the church more parking.
“I am disappointed that there was not more give and take,” Evans said.
In addition to Jefferson Street, the city is swapping ownership of several other streets with the state. The resolution that would approve the transfer of the road swap with the state is expected to get a final vote on Thursday. However, some neighborhoods along Cooper Drive have raised additional concerns about the state getting control of Cooper Drive, which is currently owned by the city.