Fayette County

Work on old Fayette Co. courthouse brings changes

Former Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Lexington.
Former Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Lexington.

Parking and traffic patterns around the former Fayette County Courthouse in downtown Lexington will change beginning next week when construction starts on a nearly $30 million overhaul of the building that opened in 1900.

The changes in parking and traffic are needed to accommodate construction vehicles and equipment in the cramped area around the courthouse. Environmental remediation — including the removal of asbestos, lead-based paint and other hazardous material — begins next week. Work on the exterior, including a new roof and repairing masonry, will start later this summer. The goal is for the courthouse to be open in 2018.

Some of the parking changes include:

▪ Parking spaces on the courthouse side of Upper Street, between Short and Main streets, will be moved north on Upper Street to the block between Church and Short streets. No parking spaces on Upper Street will be lost.

▪ Upper Street will have one lane of traffic between Church and Short streets, and the timing of the traffic signal at Short Street will be altered to accommodate the new traffic flow.

▪ The right lane of Upper Street, between Second and Church streets, will become a right-turn-only lane.

▪ The four parking spaces on the courthouse side of Short Street, between Mill and Upper streets, will be unavailable after July 4 for the duration of construction, as will access to the Short Street sidewalk adjacent to the courthouse lawn from Market Street to the corner of Upper and Short streets.

▪ One section of sidewalk — the courthouse side of Upper Street between Short and Main streets — will be closed throughout the construction.

▪ Several historic markers will be removed and stored during the next seven to 10 days. A controversial John Hunt Morgan statue and the Ellis Fountain, a statue in front of the courthouse, will remain in place but will be protected from construction activities. An arts review board recommended in November the Hunt Morgan and John C. Breckinridge statues be removed from the courthouse lawn and the space be re-imagined with input from the entire community. Ultimately, the city decided to keep the Confederate-era statues on the lawn.

In a written release, the city said that at least one ash tree infested with emerald ash borer will be removed. Other trees may be removed as well. A spruce tree on the Main Street side is believed to be healthy enough to be moved and returned when construction is complete. The ash and spruce trees will be removed this week.

The project is scheduled to be completed in 2018. A restaurant, bar, event and office space and a tourist attraction center are scheduled to be part of the renovated building. The city is spending $22 million in bond money on the repairs and renovation of the building that has been shuttered since 2012. The remaining money for the project will come from federal and state historic tax credits.

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall