City would give campus roads to UK in exchange for land to develop
The University of Kentucky must sign over 200 acres of land to the city of Lexington before it gets control of many city-owned streets near UK under the terms of a final agreement between the two groups released Thursday.
According to the agreement, UK has until 2022 to move its dairy and poultry research operation from the 200 acres off of Georgetown Road at the intersection of Interstates 64 and 75.
Once that transfer is completed, the city will turn over more than a dozen streets UK wants around its campus.
The memorandum of understanding that sets the time-line for the land-for-streets swap will be discussed at a Thursday meeting of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council. The council could take its final vote to approve the memorandum of understanding sometime in July.
The city and the university announced a tentative agreement in November that would give the city 250 acres for economic development. In exchange, UK would get control of certain roads around the university.
Kevin Atkins, chief development officer for the city, said in approximately six months the city will get control of 50 acres in UK Coldstream Research Park. The city plans to sell that land to potential businesses, with the city and the university splitting the proceeds 50/50. The land is "site ready" and needs no improvements, Atkins said.
The city can use the money from that sale to make improvements on the 200 acres off of Georgetown Road. The university can use its portion for improvements at Coldstream or to move its agricultural research operation from Georgetown Road.
The 200 acres will need roads and other infrastructure to make it ready for development.
The deal was first announced the day before the council was set to take a vote on the city's comprehensive development plan, which determines if the city's growth boundary should be expanded.
Those who pushed to expand the boundary said there was too little land inside the boundary for new businesses.
The agreement with UK gives the city 250 acres for new businesses, Atkins said.
The Bluegrass Business Park, which is near Coldstream, is 100 acres and took 20 years to fill, Atkins said. "It generates around $3 million in payroll and net profits taxes a year," he said.
Atkins said the value of those 250 acres is likely more than $30 million.
"The deal represents creative problem-solving between the city and the university," said Mayor Jim Gray. "It's a win-win-win. It preserves the Bluegrass and farmland. It creates job opportunities and it encourages pedestrian safety."
As part of the deal, UK will get control of some roads as soon as the 50 acres in UK Coldstream Research Park are turned over to the city.
Those roads include some that have already been closed for pedestrian safety, including Rose Street between Columbia Avenue and Huguelet Drive and an alley that runs behind the former Fazoli's off of Bolivar Street.
Also included are streets that UK plans to close, including portions of Pennsylvania Avenue, Pennsylvania Court and Dixie Court, which are part of its Greek campus.
"UK's current plans are to keep the remaining streets open," said Derek Paulsen, the city's planning commissioner.
Those include Hilltop Avenue and University Drive, which neighbors and council members had feared the university would close.
Moreover, the university can not close a street unless it owns all of the property adjacent to the section it wants to close.
Some of the roads that will eventually transfer to UK are lined with homes, including many rental properties in the State and Elizabeth street corridors.
"UK only owns a small portion of land at the end of those streets," Paulsen said.
If UK decides to close a street where it owns all of the property, it must give the city 90 days notice, Paulsen said.
It's the Elizabeth Street area that has the most non-UK owned housing. City services such as trash pick up and police and fire protection will continue on those streets, said Dowell Hoskins-Squier, the city's Environmental Quality and Public Works Commissioner.
But UK will take over paving and pothole repair on those streets.
As part of the deal, UK has agreed to give the city $3 million over 10 years for various street and pedestrian improvements. The city will get $1 million in the first year.
UK, the city and the neighborhoods affected by the road swap will also develop a transportation safety improvement plan that will include enhanced wayfinding, improvements to intersections and traffic mitigation — such as speed tables. The focus will be on the neighborhoods surrounding campus, Avenue of Champions and the South Limestone and Nicholasville Road corridor.
The city held meetings with neighborhoods around campus in March. Many of the concerns raised during those meetings were not about the road swap but other issues, such as parking on lawns and leaving trash cans out for days. Those issues are being addressed, Paulsen said.
UK has also agreed to work with Lexpark, the parking authority, which could lose as much as $215,000 in revenue when all of the streets transfer to UK.
The streets with meters on them will likely not be transferred until 2020, when the 200 acres on Georgetown will be transferred to the city.
The city gave UK four years to move off the property so it can find a new home for the dairy and poultry research operation. It will also allow current UK graduate students time to finish ongoing research, Atkins said.
"But they have to transfer it by July 1, 2022, at the latest," Atkins said.
During the Thursday meeting, much of the council's questions focused on the transfer of city-owned streets.
Councilman Fred Brown questioned why so many city-owned streets were included in the swap.
"I have concerns about South Martin Luther King and Lexington Avenue," Brown said. "Although there are no plans to close them, they would still be deeded over to them."
Brown pointed out Alumni Drive and Sports Center Drive are also owned by UK. There is a lot of traffic from the south trying to get through or around UK's campus, yet the city no longer controls many of those north-south connector streets.
"We are developing a lot off of Tates Creek Road," Brown said. "We are giving up a lot. We don't have a lot to work with in the future or 10 or 20 years."
But Paulsen said it's unlikely that the university would close many of those streets.
"Closing those roads aren't in their best interest either," Paulsen said of South MLK and Lexington Avenue. Plus, the university does not own all the property on those streets and can't close them.
Councilwoman Jennifer Mossotti pointed out that UK has the power of eminent domain, which means they can force a property owner to sell to them.
Paulsen said UK officials have told the city they have rarely used eminent domain to acquire property.
Councilman Jake Gibbs, whose district includes all the roads that will be transferred to UK, said he did not oppose the swap. "One of my top concerns is bicycle and pedestrian safety and I would not sign off on anything that would jeopardize that," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said he's also thankful that longstanding neighborhood concerns are being addressed.
If the memorandum of understanding is approved by the council, these are the streets that will be turned over to UK in the next six months:
▪ Rose Street between Euclid and Columbia (UK has already closed this section)
▪ Alley behind former Fazoli's restaurant
▪ Pennsylvania Court off Columbia, and portions of Pennsylvania Avenue, Dixie Court and Weidman Alley that are needed for completion of a Greek park
These streets will be transferred to UK after the 200 acres on Georgetown Road is transferred to the city, or by July 1, 2022 at the latest:
▪ Hilltop Avenue (entire)
▪ Linden Walk between Rose Lane
▪ Rose Lane (entire)
▪ Columbia Avenue between Rose and Woodland Dixie Court off Columbia:
▪ Woodland Avenue between Rose Lane and Hilltop Avenue
▪ Callahan Alley off Maxwelton Court
▪ Coliseum Alley off Rose Street
▪ Conn Terrace between Elizabeth and South Lime
▪ Elizabeth Street between Transcript and Waller
▪ Avenue Gazette Avenue between Press Avenue and South Lime
▪ Leader Avenue off Press Avenue
▪ Lexington Avenue between Maxwell and Avenue of Champions
▪ Press Avenue between Virginia Avenue and Transcript Avenue
▪ South MLK Boulevard between Maxwell and Avenue of Champions
▪ State Street between Elizabeth Street and South Limestone
▪ Transcript Avenue between Press Avenue and South Limestone
▪ University Avenue between Elizabeth Street and South Lime
▪ Warren Court off South Limestone