Old benches have been pulled from the grounds, trees have been removed and crews will soon switch the pavement from brick to concrete. All of the steps are part of the transformation of downtown Lexington's Phoenix Park.
Work began earlier this week at the park tucked between the downtown library and the corner of West Main and South Limestone streets. Jerry Hancock, director of Lexington Parks and Recreation, said he hopes the project will be completed by the last week of June — just in time for the Fourth of July Festival downtown.
The Lexington Public Library; Anderson Communities Inc., owner of the Park Plaza Apartments; and the city are working together to cover the costs to replace uneven pavers, worn out electric wiring and unhealthy trees.
Hancock said the project is expected to cost $76,296 — $30,786 from the city, $26,952 from Anderson Communities and $18,558 from the library.
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Hancock said the groups have been planning improvements for the last few years. The city's contribution is coming from the Parks and Recreation budget.
"It's taken awhile, but we think it's been worth the wait to get a community partnership together," Hancock said.
The money for the renovations will go toward making the park safer and making it look similar to what people see in other city parks downtown, officials said.
Greg Davis, marketing director of the Lexington Public Library, said an important safety change for the library is the switch from brick to concrete pavement near the entrances of the library and Park Plaza Apartments.
"Many, many, many of those bricks had sunk in, and people with wheelchairs were having trouble ..." he said. "We just wanted people to have an easier, more safe way to get in and out of our building."
The trees and benches in Phoenix Park also needed improvement, Hancock said. New plants and trees will be added to make the park look bright and cheerful.
The trees that are being removed were in declining health, he said.
"They're in relatively confined spaces in the ground so that their roots don't have a chance to grow as they would on someone's front lawn," Hancock said.
The benches are going to be replaced with what Hancock called the "streetscape" standard.
"If you look at the tables and chairs that are in the Fifth Third Pavilion or in Triangle Park, we're going to replace that style of table inside Phoenix Park, so it'll look more consistent with what people expect to see downtown," he said.
Dennis Anderson, owner of Park Plaza, said the person overseeing work on the first floor retail space in Park Plaza Apartments also will oversee the park work. Anderson said he wanted to participate in the renovation to make the park a clean, safe and well maintained space.
"It needed to be done," he said. "Somebody had to step up."
People navigate around the park now, probably because they don't feel safe, he said.
Anderson said people have been arrested in the park, also a hangout spot for people who drink.
"That's not a good feeling," he said.