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City official says plans are in place to renovate Phoenix Park

Plans are being made for improvements to Phoenix Park, next to the Central Library and the Park Plaza apartments. The emphasis will be on safety, health and cleanliness issues. A "no sleeping" ordinance such as the one in Triangle Park is a possibility.
Plans are being made for improvements to Phoenix Park, next to the Central Library and the Park Plaza apartments. The emphasis will be on safety, health and cleanliness issues. A "no sleeping" ordinance such as the one in Triangle Park is a possibility. Herald-Leader

A city official says plans are in place to renovate Phoenix Park, which has been the subject of complaints from neighbors and pedestrians concerned about safety and public health.

Jerry Hancock, director of parks and recreation, told the Herald-Leader on Friday the city is on the cusp of starting some renovations on the park.

"We're going to do some upgrades on maintenance issues that have been nagging at us for a while," he said.

Costs have not been determined.

Work will include removing dead trees, replacing old electrical wiring and outlets, installing new park furniture and reducing the height of a large planter to make the park more open. The parks department also will look for ways to keep cigarette butts from getting into the fountains.

"What we are proposing will complement what Dennis Anderson is going to do with his building," Hancock said. "Phoenix Park looks tired and needs to be freshened up."

Anderson, owner of Park Plaza, declined to comment on the condition of the park.

Phoenix Park is next to the Park Plaza apartments and the Central Library. The park is a small green space with a water fountain in the heart of downtown that has become a gathering spot for homeless people. The park is littered with trash, cigarette butts and leftover food.

On Friday, a strong smell of urine wafted through the park.

It has been an issue of concern for years.

In 2009, for example, officials spent several months with representatives from the health department, police, the city's social services department, the library and the parks department on the Phoenix Park Homeless Initiative looking for "a long-term solution, not a quick fix."

This summer, Mayor Jim Gray named Councilman Steve Kay and businesswoman Debra Hensley to chair a residents group to examine homelessness in Lexington. The establishment of a commission was prompted by several reports related to homelessness, including concerns raised about Phoenix Park and other spots in the city.

A group of citizens has formed Clean Up Phoenix Park with an emphasis on improving public health and public safety.

The group's Facebook page says downtown residents must assess their safety each time they walk outside at night to visit restaurants and walk their dogs, especially in light of recent assaults and robberies.

In July, a man was severely injured in an unprovoked attack in front of the downtown library, a stone's throw from the park.

Other problems described include harassment and violence in the park, indecency, and public urination and other cleanliness issues.

The group said potential solutions include increased police presence, enhanced lighting, enforcement of city laws relating to loitering, food distribution and public intoxication, and rules similar to those of Triangle Park that include a "no sleeping" ordinance.

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