Fayette County

Lexington Distillery District designers show plans to the public

The planners behind Lexington's upcoming Distillery District streetscape renovation began gathering input about the project from the public at a meeting Thursday night.

About 50 people turned out at the Carver Center on Patterson Street to hear engineers and design consultants discuss plans for the project, which is to revitalize the long-neglected Manchester Road corridor northeast of downtown.

The revitalization will consist of renovations to streets, sidewalks, sewers, green space, lighting and parking, as well as a planned construction of a pedestrian trail that could connect parts of the Town Branch trail that have already been completed.

It has been almost two years since the Urban County Council approved $2.2 million for the combined public-private project, but construction is still a ways off.

"The goal is to make improvements over time that would encourage redevelopment," city spokeswoman Susan Straub said.

The renovation is now in a feasibility-study phase, said Mike Woolum, a consultant from the Strand Associates design firm. A final plan for the project probably will be ready to submit to the city for approval next spring at the earliest, he said.

Meanwhile, the consultants told those in attendance that their thoughts and concerns would help shape the project.

"If we're off base, we hope the public will let us know," said city engineer Bob Bayert.

Few concerns were voiced Thursday, since the meeting was the first time residents were shown renderings and given time to talk with those who were designing the project. At least one more meeting will be held at the Carver Center, and design consultants will meet with neighborhood associations, businesses and residents who have interests in the area.

One resident of the Irishtown neighborhood told Woolum he worried that historical assets, such as homes and family cemetery plots, would not be preserved as development moves into the area.

Consultants assured residents they would do everything they could to protect the history of the area, which is one of the oldest settlements in Lexington.

Another man asked whether it would be possible to bury power lines rather than hanging them. Woolum said that was a possibility, but it depended on funding. Burying power lines is typically more costly than hanging them.

After the presentation by Bayert, Woolum and Joann Green, a subcontractor with LandStory design firm, residents went into the Carver Center gymnasium to see renderings and discuss the project one-on-one with designers.

The Distillery District is home to the James E. Pepper Distillery and the Old Tarr Distillery, now home to Buster's Billiards & Backroom, a popular nightspot. The area extends along Manchester Street between Oliver Lewis Way and South Forbes Road. It includes historic neighborhoods, such as Irishtown, Speigle Heights and Melrose Oak Park.