Neglect will eventually destroy a structure, a truth that was reinforced when the dilapidated building at Third and Race streets collapsed. The same is true for neighborhoods. In Lexington until recently the East End, where the building stood, was itself suffering deeply from neglect and isolation.
With the boarded-up building replaced by a vacant lot, there's hope this critical parcel in the heart of what was the East End's lively business district, will be redeveloped to contribute to rather than detract from the neighborhood's vitality.
Now, word that Midland Avenue/Winchester Road, the in-town names for U.S. 60, will soon be changed offers hope to relieve the neighborhood's isolation.
State engineers, working with the city and private developers, have agreed to add bicycle lanes on both sides of that road when it is repaved and restriped in the next few months.
This offers significant benefits: the road will be much safer and inviting for two-wheeled traffic and the bike lanes will provide a buffer for pedestrians. Traffic will also slow when the existing auto lanes are narrowed to make room for the bike lines.
Midland/Winchester has been a major barrier to the long-term prosperity of the East End as a vital, connected part of this city. A four-lane highway, it blocks the East End from commercial and residential areas to the south. This is more than an aesthetic or psychological barrier. Residents of the East End have the lowest auto ownership rate in the city, meaning that if they can't walk or cycle safely from one place to another their options for employment and other opportunities are seriously limited.
This first step is welcome but if federal funding comes through for the Town Branch Commons project, this speedway could be transformed into a truly pedestrian friendly connector to build on the significant public and private non-profit investment in the East End in recent years.
Projects include: reopening and revitalizing the Lyric Theatre and the Charles Young Community Center and park, construction of the William Wells Brown public elementary school and community center, and extensive housing construction by both the Housing Authority and the Urban League.
Most recently, the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden at Third and Midland has opened, creating an inviting entry to the neighborhood.
More's on the way. Community Ventures Corporation has begun work on a mixed-use development that is part of a larger Midland Avenue Corridor tax increment financing project that also takes in the vacant parcel where Main, Midland and Vine streets meet.