NICHOLASVILLE — Art lovers hope an empty lot in downtown Nicholasville will become a small park to display exhibits and hold musical performances.
The Creative Art League of Jessamine County and the city are working together to put the park at 104 South Main Street, between Euro Wine Bar and The Wicker Basket, a small business that sells vintage items.
The park's design is still in progress, but the space would have seating, lighting, perhaps a small stage and some water features or fountains, said Connie Grayson, president and co-founder of the art league.
"We're calling it a performance park," Grayson said. "I could see ... a small bluegrass group doing a concert where people bring their own chairs and set up and listen to a concert at night."
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About $280,000 left over from a downtown renovation project will go toward completion of the park, said Nicholasville Mayor Pete Sutherland. That "streetscape" project widened sidewalks, buried utility lines and put traffic lights on poles.
The city recently received a memorandum of agreement from the state that will allow the use of the streetscape money to expedite completion of the park.
"If we didn't use it we were going to lose it," Sutherland said.
The building that once occupied the lot was demolished 10 years ago. Nicholasville developer and excavating contractor Clay Corman donated the property to the city in June, according to a deed filed in the Jessamine County clerk's office. The property had a fair cash value of $90,000, the deed says.
After the 2005 demolition, a fence was erected to hide the empty lot from South Main Street. The fence is still there and bears a painting of the Rev. John Metcalf House, built in 1791 and commonly called the first house in Nicholasville. (The house was on First Street, not on the Main Street lot.)
The proposed park is part of a resurgence of the arts in downtown Nicholasville, Grayson said. It will be across the street from the Polvino Family Arts Center, the league's gallery and workshop for arts events that opened last year.
A business called Kentucky Artisan, another gallery, will open soon on Main Street. Around the corner from the park site is the Art Depository, a gallery that showcases the works of local artists.
An alley between the depository and a barber shop will provide a side entrance from Maple Street to the proposed park. Grayson said she hopes that the alley can be paved and made accessible to wheelchairs.
"There are now things to draw people downtown," Grayson said.
More public art will come later this year to the downtown Windstream building, where an awning was removed. The Nicholasville Tourism Commission provided money to the art league to install interchangeable murals on that space. The idea is to change the murals each quarter, Grayson said.
Grayson sees other uses for the pocket park, such as a display space for art made by Jessamine County students.
"Kids in Jessamine County schools produce a tremendous amount of art and they really don't have enough outlets to show it," she said.
The park might also be used for events such as wedding receptions or birthday parties.
Because the design work is still in progress, a completion date for the park has not been scheduled. But Grayson said she hopes the park will be finished sometime next year.
"I'd really like to have the dedication for the June 3rd gallery walk," she said, but she acknowledges it might not happen until later.