Fayette County

‘Genius grant,’ pool of money go to designer of downtown park, trail system

Kate Orff
Kate Orff John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The designer of Town Branch Commons in Lexington was named as one of 24 MacArthur Fellows, which is a program known by many as its “genius grants.”

Kate Orff is one of the recipients of the award and will claim $625,000 from the MacArthur Foundation, paid out over five years. The award serves as an investment in the potential for Orff, according to the MacArthur website. The program is intended to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual and professional dreams.

The design for Town Branch Commons makes the region’s porous limestone geology and stream channel the focal points of a park and trail system that runs through downtown Lexington. It would also feature a water play area with treated water.

Herald-Leader columnist Tom Eblen said the park could be the most significant thing to be built in downtown Lexington since Rupp Arena in 1976.

Orff heads SCAPE, a New York landscape architecture firm, and her research and design practice is focused on finding practical solutions to ecological problems facing cities, according to a release from MacArthur.

In New York City, she has proposed Living Breakwaters, a series of oyster reefs that will filter polluted water and reduce waves and coastal flooding. Its construction will begin in June 2018.

After being named a nominee to the program, a selection committee of about a dozen leaders in arts, sciences, humanities professions and for-profit and nonprofit communities made its recommendations to the foundation president and board of directors.

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson