State officials have granted the University of Kentucky permission to give the city of Lexington about 250 acres of land to help lure new employers in exchange for control of several roads around campus.
The swap will give the city about 50 acres in Coldstream Research Park, off Citation Boulevard, that could be ready immediately for new construction, and 200 acres for a new industrial park at the back of Coldstream, close to Interstates 64 and 75, off Georgetown Road.
The UK Board of Trustees approved the deal Tuesday. A memorandum of understanding could be signed by UK officials and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council as soon as January.
In a Dec. 5 letter to UK, William Landrum, secretary of the state Finance and Administration Cabinet, said he approved the swap. Because UK is essentially state-owned, it has not been able to sell land parcels at Coldstream. Instead, it grants long-term leases to companies that want to move there.
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“The futures of Lexington and the University of Kentucky are inextricably tied, and this proposed swap is an example of how partnerships can create progress for everyone, from the safety of our students, faculty and staff to the jobs and economic development that a thriving community like Lexington is poised to create,” UK President Eli Capilouto said.
The 200-acre parcel currently holds UK dairy cattle and research facilities, which will move. The 50-acre parcel is part of UK’s existing 735-acre Coldstream Research Park. Any profit the city makes from selling those 50 acres to a company would be used to help pay for infrastructure, such as roads and sewers, on the 200-acre parcel.
In exchange, the city will turn over control of about 13 acres of roads, including Rose Street, Hilltop Avenue and parts of Woodland Avenue. Some neighborhood associations have raised concerns that UK will continue to close roads on campus, but officials said they will do nothing immediately.
Rose Street will remain closed from Columbia to Limestone, with access to UK Hospital, but no other road closures are currently planned, said Eric Monday, executive vice president of finance and administration.
“That’s a long-term conversation with city partners and communities,” he said.
In addition, the city and UK are working on a tax increment financing deal for portions of Coldstream, which would use taxes generated by companies that move there to pay for infrastructure improvements in the area.
UK officials have said they hope their graduates will find more work when more companies set up in Coldstream.
“This proposed swap represents a true win-win for the university and for the community of Lexington,” said Britt Brockman, chairman of the UK board. “It provides the opportunity right away to create jobs and that, in turn, creates further opportunities for our students, many of whom want to stay in Lexington to live, work and raise a family. At the same time, we can work in partnership with the city to improve safety and transportation on a campus that is growing in size and service to the community and state.”
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray welcomed news of the state’s approval.
“The land at Coldstream will help us bring more good employers and good jobs to our city,” he said. “The changes near campus mean new funding for improvements in pedestrian and traffic safety in near campus neighborhoods. This is a great example of the power of the university and the city working together on behalf of a better Lexington.”