Fayette County

Four-story apartment building approved for Lexington’s Blackburn Avenue

Lexington Fayette Urban County Government council chambers.
Lexington Fayette Urban County Government council chambers. 2014 staff file photo

The Urban County Council voted Tuesday to approve a zone change for a four-story apartment building on Blackburn Avenue near the Jefferson Street corridor.

The council voted unanimously to approve the zone change after a two-hour public hearing where neighbors raised concerns about traffic and parking problems on Blackburn Avenue and Fourth Street.

The Urban County Planning Commission voted unanimously in December to approve the zone change from a neighborhood business and light industrial zone to a high-density apartment zone, or R-5 zone, for 339, 341, 345 and 349 Blackburn Avenue.The site is across West Fourth Street from Transylvania University athletic fields. There are currently several light industrial buildings on the property.

The proposed apartment building would have 72 one- or two-bedroom apartments. The developer, Cowgill Partners, plans to have 110 bedrooms and 108 parking spaces. The building would be no more than 49 feet tall, said Jacob Walbourn, an attorney who represents Cowgill. It would be a pet-friendly apartment with a dog run and a “paw spa” — a pet-cleaning station.

“Our main amenity is location, location, location,” Walbourn said, andthe apartments would be within walking distance of the Jefferson Street corridor. Walbourn said the apartments would be market rate, but a definite price point hasn’t been set. The developer expects young professionals who want to walk or bike to work, Walbourn said. Neighbors said they expected the renters to be college students because of the development’s proximity to Transylvania and to Bluegrass Community and Technical College.

The city’s planning staff had recommended approval. Several small area plans recommended that the area be used for infill development, particularly residential. Those plans also recommend doing away with industrial zoning in the Fourth Street area.

Neighbors who opposed the apartment building said that both Blackburn Avenue and West Fourth Street are too narrow to handle the increase in traffic, that the nearly 50-foot height of the apartment building is too high and out of character for the neighborhood, and that most of the homes in the area are single or two-story homes.

“Blackburn is a very small street,” said Cindy Bowling, who lives on Blackburn Avenue. “About half of us rely on on-street parking. My concern is that the current development will overpower the number of on-site parking spaces.”

Barbara Grossman, who also lives on Blackburn, said the apartment would be too big for the street. Blue Stallion Brewing Co. at the end of Third Street already causes parking problems, Grossman said, and the proposed apartment building would add to those parking and traffic headaches.

“Recently, police had to come because of overflow parking from the Blue Stallion that was blocking someone’s driveway,” Grossman said.

Others said a Fourth Street planning study showed that parcel should be low- to medium-density, not high-density, which is for apartments.

Walbourn said Cowgill Partners has agreed to add 13 on-street parking spots on Blackburn Avenue that the neighborhood would be welcome to use.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall