Thursday, May 28, 2015

Is Low Power Community Radio In The Future?

I am not always in favor of a lot of the ideas floated by the established movers and shakers of Lexington.  Some of the latest could include the re-branding of Rupp Arena or the day-lighting of Town Branch.  These are fairly expensive undertakings and funded by the typical taxpayer.

Tonight, Mrs Sweeper and I attended a work session on training radio producers and developers of programing for WLXL and/or WLXU.  These are Lexington's new low-power community radio stations due to go on the air this fall.  Their whole non-profit concept is to be as different from "commercial" radio as my blog  is to actual news reporting and their programing aims to reflect that.

They are looking for ideas from folks that you just don't see on radio today.  Say that you knew how to explain something in such a way that one didn't need to visually see you do it to understand exactly how it is done.  That could be interesting, not to a commercial audience, but someone could be listening.  Maybe a call in show about a topic which you may be knowledgeable of.  It could be interesting.

Almost 8 years ago, when I began toying with the idea of collecting my thoughts on paper, or in digital bits, I was of the impression that few would ever see any merit in reading them.  My banter with others on some of the local online forums quickly became confrontational and antagonistic on some of the most trivial issues.  If I stuck to subjects to which I had good knowledge and experience, or if I presented just my observations, those problems went away.  Today, I continue to meet people who say that they read this blog on a regular basis and I still wonder why.

This blog began as a way to relate my observations about local happenings, sometimes with a little lesser known background that was not fully reported in the regular media.  Newspaper articles and columns do tend to gloss over (or omit) relevant details and connections to similar or past events.  Reporter turnover amid the ongoing downsizing of main stream media really hurts institutional memory.  I sought to correct that.

By not remembering or reporting what had happened and how it related to events popping up as breaking news, quite a number of our young professionals (who were taking much interest in our downtown) did not get the complete story.  I wanted to connect the dots.

I still wish to engage in some sort of dialogue about these observations, but the blog seems to discourage that.  Facebook enables and facilitates more of a running conversation that the comments section of a  blog, so lately I have spent a lot of time there.  Unfortunately, the corporate face of Facebook hates the use of nom de plumes on their accounts, therefore even those conversational adventures are less exciting than they were.

I have also diversified some of the subject matter and educated myself on topics other than development and history, the current status of rail transportation, food sovereignty and relocalized sustainability of living.  Most of today's observations have many more dots to connect.  So many dots, so little time.

This evening, I have begun to ponder- Can a blog such as this translate to a community radio segment?  Can it be more?   

Maybe time will tell.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Lexington To Fully Enbrace Community Supported Agriculture?

I am a big fan of CSAs, as in Community Supported Agriculture.  We have looked at joining a CSA for several years but most have required a substantial payment before the growing season begins and it just wasn't in the budget at the time.  This year things were different.

We have joined an alternative style of CSA called the New Roots Fresh Stop.  It is designed for those of more limited means and works more like a subscription farmers market.  Our farmer knows that a certain number of members will be arriving on the delivery days and buying the bi-weekly agreed upon quantity of what they need. Each family will be getting a different variety of produce. 

This CSA plus whatever we can harvest from our own garden and our work with Seedleaf will be worth whatever we have put into it.

On the other hand, I believe that there is another aspect of community supported agriculture and that pertains to the encouragement of neighborhood community gardens and the ability of a neighborhood to feed itself.  Every family in Lexington needs to realize food security through local food access.

Lexington has worked with Seedleaf, a local non-profit, which teaches about and operates small plots of neighborhood gardens, especially in our local food deserts.  It now appears that Lexington is creating an ordinance to promote and regulate not only community gardens but also what they are calling "market gardens".  The stated primary purpose of private, community and market gardens is to promote sustainable and affordable local food production for local consumption.

Market gardens would be defined as "an area of lane less than five (5) continuous acres in size for the cultivation of food and/or non-food crops by an individual or a group of individuals to be sold on-site or off-site for profit.  Think about that for just a minute.  A neighborhood could develop a parcel or group of parcels, not just as a garden to feed themselves but a way to raise funds to make the garden sustainable over the long haul. This will change the concept of local foods for many people.

While the market gardens are allowed on-site sale facilities the community gardens are not.  I see no reason that some sort of cooperative agreement could not be reached where the market garden sales site may sell produce from one or more community gardens.  

Provisions are also made for up to 15% of a community garden site to be covered with accessory structures  Accessory structures are identified as storage sheds, hoop houses, trellises for shade, picnic tables and benches.  Add the possibility of a fire pit or a grill and we could realize the truth of "farm to table" right in the community garden with your neighbors.

I also like the inclusion of permitting such gardens within a FEMA floodplain as long as one meets all the regulations on slope and existing vegetation retention.  There are several locations which are currently quite underutilized and their neighborhoods could benefit from a community garden or two.

The information I have referenced here is only in draft form but I think that it is far enough along to bring to you.  I am happy that we are actually moving toward a reasonable food policy which allows a sense of food access and food security.  If you feel as I do, please let your Council representative know that we need this to come to pass.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Thinking About Lexington's Urban Public Spaces

I spent some time this morning participating in an exercise identifying elements of downtown living for the Gehl Studio and DDA.

About 30 of us first discussed what we thought were distinctive parts of images from around the world. Photos of all types, taken of generally urban scenes, can give subtle clues to what people like (or dislike) about public spaces. By identifying which of these desirable parts we like, they can then be compared to those sites in Lexington which have them or really need them.

It did not strike me as odd that the common activity areas were delineated, nor that these will probably be surveyed further for more detailed responses. What was missing was the failure to question why other parts of our city may lack what we apparently desire. In other words, how do we direct street activity, both retail and pedestrian, to the “dead zones” of urbanity.

In my mind, such urban dead zones can be the usual surface parking which has commonly replaced the former fabric of downtown structures lost to neglect. They may also be the missing civic elements of neighborhoods where vast swaths of nearly identical housing limit the availability of many desirable elements identified above. If desirable elements attract activity, how can the encourage them where they are lacking?

I hope that much more can come out of this and that there is more community involvement in the coming months. I will be keeping an eye on the progress.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Can We Get A Farming Community Subdivision?

Anybody know what an “agrihood” is?

If you do, would you expect to see on in Lexington any time soon?

It has long been known that the best place to build a subdivision is also the best location for farming but seldom have the two uses successfully coexisted, much less symbiotically, in American cities. In Central Kentucky, the historical trend has been to clear an agricultural property of all vestiges of its previous use, then name the development for what used to be there. To do otherwise goes against all rules of subdivision design and development. Agrihoods bend those rules into the symbiotic relationship of pioneer days.

They seem to be a growing item in other parts of the country. One of the latest agrihoods, Willowsford, is being planned in northern Virginia and will include about 2,130 units plus 2,000 acres of open space. 300 of those open space acres will be reserved for the cultivation of fruit, vegetables, chickens, and goats.

You could look at this as similar to a subdivision built around a golf course. Think Andover or Griffin Gate, where the links were built first and the prime housing units looked out onto the fairway or the 18th green. In this case, the view over the back fence is of a tilled field in the community farm. Instead of golf, the amenity which draws these homeowners is the benefit of fresh food within walking distance. Their own CSA or farmers market in the backyard where they can participate or not.

Developers are counting on fresh veggies to tempt retired baby boomers looking to eat local and parents intent on nurturing children on organic meals. DMB has integrated produce fields and edible gardens into their projects in Arizona, California, and Hawaii. I cannot see Ball Homes doing such a concept here, but why not build our community one farm at a time?

Agrihoods have been around since the 1980s with the 359-home Prairie Crossing development being a widely acclaimed conservation community in Grayslake, Illinois outside Chicago. The Prairie Crossing Farm with its working organic farm, was one of the first parts of the community to be established and remains at its heart. 

Will agrihoods be affordable housing for the Millennial who is looking for the walkable, vibrant city life that we generally of as downtown? Maybe not. Willowsford’s farm, in northern Virginia, runs at a deficit for now but is expected to break even by about 2018 as more residents, local restaurants, and markets purchase its food. Housing units are running about $6K+ at this time and only about 500 are built. This can still be considered sprawl despite having two community centers with demonstration kitchens for wine tastings, culinary classes or pop-up restaurants.

Do you ever wonder just how many of the residents actually join to play golf at those country club type communities? My personal feeling is that the number is not that high. I find the thought of living adjacent to a working farm, with its aromas and activities, far more alluring than being on a golf course with its errant projectiles and chemical grooming methods. Establishing and maintaining a community farm can run about 20% as much as doing the same with a golf course.

The key to correctly maintaining a good golf community is finding and retaining a qualified golf professional. Likewise, having a knowledgeable farmer, willing to assist the community's residents and follow sustainable farming practices, will go a long away toward success. I suppose that an agrihood could be branded as a ”Kentucky Proud” community just as well as a golf course community on a PGA Tour.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Approach To Commonwealth's Image In The Coming Years

I, as many others as well, have noticed over the past few years that the University of Kentucky has greatly enhanced their sports facilities. The new softball field for the ladies and the new soccer complex along Alumni Dr brightly advertise the UK logo both day and night. And prior the this year's football season, the relocated tail-gating lot which cleverly hides an underground rainwater runoff control system was completed, but there is much more to do.

The City is currently in the process of constructing an enlarged and more modern senior citizens center on a portion of the Idle Hour Park property. This should allow the City to transfer, back to the University, the present site which they received in a land swap for the right-of-way of College View years ago.

From my memory, College View was a street of modest to small frames houses running from Lexington Avenue to Rose St. The present entry to the parking lot for the Joe Craft Center and the Coal Lodge is the sole remaining vestige of the this roadway. There was small confectionery store on the northwest corner with Rose and a storefront addition to a house anchoring the other end at Lexington Ave in my youth.

What I cannot recall is the section of deteriorating shotgun houses that lined Adams St, which paralleled College View on the south nor the ones which lined Euclid Ave. They were built when this area was developed as Adamstown and faced a city park. This city park was traded for the University's predecessor, the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College's, interests in Woodland Park The only remaining evidence that this street ever existed is the driveway along the south side of Blazer Hall and the access to the rear of the Papa Johns/Qudoba lot off of Rose St.

Concerning the little storefront at College View and Lexington Avenue, the Lafayette studios collection at the http://exploreuk.uky.edu/ has a couple of images and the 1934 Sanborn Fire insurance map clearly shows a retail space. Owned by a man named Johnson, he merely called it Sampy's

In November of 1946, G.L.“Sampy” Johnson applied to the City and County Planning and Zoning Commission for a change in the zoning for 200 College View. The request was from a Residence “B” district to a Business “B” district and I can only assume that his reason was to make his existing store comply with the rules. The Commission's Zoning Committee also concurred and the item was moved to a public hearing.

Objectors at this hearing were led by Dr McVey, the University president, who “offered objections on behalf of the university -- not to the operation of a grocery store...” since the store served the existing residents, “but to the changing of the entire area as set out by this Commission because of the probability businesses being established there over which the University have no jurisdiction.

Strangely enough, in this time period the Planning Commission was of the habit (or proclivity) of suggesting and recommending additional properties besides the requested area. In this case they may have included the whole street but, since there is no attached map, the entirety is unclear. Was this the University using its influence beyond it's campus borders?

A Mr. H. B. McGregor also appeared before the Commission saying that he “objected to such change because he would dislike seeing any homes being torn down and converted or built into businesses.” An early preservationist obviously. Upon consideration of evidence the petition was refused.

I an only wonder how Mr McGreror felt just two years later when the University called upon the City to assist in clearing the “slums” of Adamstown and allow the school to erect their new sports arena, Memorial Coliseum on that spot. Dr McVey and his successors now had jurisdiction of the area.

What does this have to do with my opening remarks? Little more than that the University is not shy about using its influence to “improve” their jurisdiction's image, be it by removing outdated structures or skillfully landscaping its grounds as it sees fit. Of all the improvements around their part of Alumni Dr, the road itself is an aging (deteriorating) two lane facility for the most part and leads to what will be a “showcase” Commonwealth Stadium before next season.

When Commonwealth Stadium was planned in the early '70s, the University provided two access points on the southern boundary of its shrinking research farm. This road, connecting those two points, was labeled as “Farm Road D” and wound itself through the rolling fields. It looked to be a lot of pavement to only used for a few football games a year.

At this same time the City was wrestling with suburban traffic and looking to implement a long planned connector road between the Mt Tabor/Tates Creek Rd intersection and Rosemont Garden/Nicholasville Rd intersection. Envisioned in the 1930 Comprehensive Plan prior to any suburban development, to push through established neighborhoods as other communities were doing, Lexington found very stiff resistance.

Farm Road D provided a reasonable alternative in terms of traffic movement and allowed the contested connector road to be put to rest, except. Most of the non game day type traffic would be coming from the residents and taxpayers of the City, therefore the City should bear the cost of maintenance became the University's position. Therefore a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was hammered out and I believe is still in effect today.

Th MoU and the alignment of the roadway have impact on issues such as traffic control, snow removal, out of county emergency medical access and even the joint Arboretum venture which is so successful. What appears to not be covered is the now needed upgrade and landscaping of a primary approach to the SEC class (and pride of the Commonwealth) football stadium.

I realize that the Town-Gown discussions were primarily to bridge the gap from downtown to campus, but I hope that this is not too far afield to create a better image for our visitors and a point of pride for our residents. The impending shuttering of the existing senior citizens center will allow the final campus access point to be brought in line with the rest and reinforce the University's overall image.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mile Stones Of The Past? Threatened In The Future?

I received an email from a friend just after the work on the Woodland Triangle began. He was concerned that they crew replacing the sidewalk along High St has also removed the historic white milestone. It was something that both of us thought would be a travesty.

When I drove home that night, I went out of my way to check and it is still there. This time luck was on our side.

There is a description in George Ranck's History of Lexington,of a survey ordered by the town's trustees in the spring of 1791 and taken verbatim from the Trustee's Book.
"Surveyed by order of the trustees of the town of Lexington, 204 acres of land, including the court-house of Fayette county in the center, in a circular figure of two miles in diameter. Beginning at A (a point), one mile southeast from the said court-house, at a post on the northeast side of the road, running thence south 56 (degrees) west 125 poles to a post crossing Tate's creek road at 85 poles;”
The Lexington Press, in their edition of May 5, 1871, reported that the City council proposed to mark the city boundary with a ring of stones placed 500 feet apart. A week later a crew under the direction of Col. De La Pradele were busy setting the stones to mark the boundaries of City at one mile from Court House. This came just two months after a proposal to make the city limits a square rather that a circle.

Work was still progressing in November of the following year. By 1873 the City Council voted to leave the city boundaries the same and new stones be put up at appropriate distances.

Now, if you take a one mile radius from the old Court House and superimpose it on a map, that point A is almost exactly where Walton Ave intersects E Main St. Following that sweeping arc to the southwest toward E High St., or what would have been called the road to Tate's creek in those days, you will find a white stone set in the ground. It is about 10 to 12 inches to a side and well weathered. It is also one mile from the old Court House.

One mile in the other direction from the Court House on Leestown Rd, just opposite the entrance to the Calvary cemetery, is a similar stone, also set well in the ground and weathered. Neither of these stones have any plaques or markings to tell what they are (or what I suspect them to be.) I believe them to be the two remaining stones from that project of over 140 years ago.

When I spoke to the city's construction manager, overseeing the work at the Woodland Triangle, he had no idea that the stone was even there. I also found out the the city's Division of Historic Preservation was requiring an application for a Certificate of Appropriateness for replacing the sidewalk, even after the work was completed. This is required for all historic overlay zones, yet no one is looking out for a possibly 145 year old stone marker?

Are these the only remaining stones? Have the others been carelessly removed because someone did not know (or care) what they were? It would stand to reason that other stones would appear along the aforementioned arc at 500 foot intervals.

In 1871 the Woodland Park did not exist nor did any of the adjacent neighborhoods and that interval would span approximately half way through the future park. The fall of 1884 saw several crews of men construct a large lake of no more than 3 acres. This lake, called Lake Chenosa, was placed squarely on the city boundary. Surely, someone remembered the boundary stone placement of a dozen years previous so as to avoid them.

By my calculations, a stone 500 feet along the arc would appear near the existing first base dugout structure of the ball-field which occupies the former “lake” site. Approximately twenty or so feet past and ten or so feet behind. I have not been there lately to look for it and it does not show up in any recent aerials. Also, some years ago the Parks maintenance crews reworked that hillside for drainage issues.

It puzzles me as to why these stones, if they are what I think they are, are not identified. This town is so quick to claim anything old as historic and they have rushed to protect items of lesser age. We have even been known to remove major historical artifacts from their original context, thereby diminishing their true worth. This has happened to at least two county boundary markers.

I repeat, I believe that we dodged a travesty recently and I hope that we can prevent it in the future.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

1 Out Of 4 ?

By some counts the Mayor is now 1 out of 4 for big downtown projects. He has not stopped or greatly altered he CentrePointe block. South Limestone, for all its expense ($7000 a foot?), is working out well. Rupp Arena's redesign has fallen to University's re-emphasis on education if not lack of statewide public interest. The 21c hotel may be his one bright spot.

The Mayor and Council have now declared the Rupp remodel to be in a state of suspended development. That does not mean the the rest of the Arts and Entertainment district, of which Rupp Arena's re-do was initially a minor part, cannot proceed. The 20 acre High St parking lot should be developed and with an emphasis on residential spaces for families.

The property taken for the High St lot was once home to many families. The fact that they were of a lower economic status made it easy to target them for removal or relocation. That much land being used so infrequently is a greater waste than bailing out certain developers. If we desire to expand our downtown's central core, that would be an excellent direction and place to start.

Being that the property is owned by the government, or at least a quasi-government agency, and the desire is to encourage private development whenever possible, the City should “jump-start” the process by lowering the acquisition costs in the downtown area. Developing smaller, individual buildings rather than massive, CentrePointe sized projects and including welcoming street facades to enhance the walkability of the area will work here – as it has in other locations. (Can you say JDI?)

What happens to the seldom mentioned Town Branch Trail and the amphitheater/park to replace the Cox Street lot should take a back seat to reviving our downtown residential scene so that someone is downtown to enjoy those amenities. Driving downtown to walk along a reconstructed stream bed or rebuilt rolling hills just does not do it for me.

So, where are the other glimmers of hope for downtown?

The Main & Vine project may be getting its parking garage (yea?) but it is very quiet down there.

The competing IMAX style theaters show little signs of progress as we near the end of June.

The Kickstarter campaign for a restaurant in the Distillery District grabbed some press.

I am keeping my eye on West Short St. The parking lot beside and between the Village Idiot and Church Street. Some recent property transactions over the last three years which coincide with the creation of LLC's of the new owners lends credence to the rumors of major players inquiring about the space. I need to look more closely for recent survey markings and I will look.

I also hope that the Food Truck days at the newspaper, Cup of Commonwealth and Dad's Favorites will continue the offerings that a goodly number of our young professionals appear to partake.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Not Easy Being Green

Kermit, the frog, may have said it best. “It is not easy being green”, especially in Lexington, Ky.

Take the issue of recycling your household materials. There are a lot of items on the approved list but not everything with the international recycling symbol is acceptable. I know that, for my family, we put out nearly 3 times as much recycling material as we do waste material. I hope that that is pretty much standard.

It takes way more effort to recycle the household electronic stuff than usual. You have to make special trips across town and you have a limited number of times per year per household. Certain items are allowed and others are not (CFL bulbs are not).

Then we have the community drop-off locations for those who do not have individual or adequate residential service. You know, the ones with the blue roll-off boxes with the small black doors, where you place all recyclable materials in the container, without separating. The map below shows the LFUCG managed locations as of this morning.


Last week the map also presented a spot (No. 2) at Sam's Club on New Circle Rd, between Liberty and Winchester Rds. Apparently the site was being either well used or vastly misused as the ground around it became a repository for things that would not fit in the container. Being a nuisance for the property owner, they asked for it to be removed.

One cannot help but notice that it results in a massive hole in the northeast quadrant of the older part of town. Compared to the rest of the community, should we be surprised that it could be so well used? Do we expect the residents there to be the type which will not recycle?

I do understand the type of corporate citizen Sam's Club wishes to be, but this may have been the wrong approach. Perhaps Costco could step in and demonstrate more of their business leadership.

In a city that touts itself as forward thinking and urging it residents to “Live Green”, this map nearly shouts that the stratified economic class living on the south and west sides of town are getting the service intended for all. The actions taken by Sam's Club and the City just appear to reinforce that notion.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Can We Change The Current Supermarket Model?

I put up a post not long ago that detailed the progression of Kroger stores in the developing Chevy Chase section of town. It mirrors in some ways an article published by Sustainable Food Trust on Apr 1, 2014. Let me look at some of the similarities.

Kroger began life in Cincinnati as a series of markets designed to aide the convenience of homeowners, many of which would need to make multiple stops on daily shopping trips. These “economy” shops carried mainly canned goods, some general staples and rarely any fruits or vegetables. The fresh meats and fish or other farm produce were handled by specialty stores and carried strictly local fare.

To be sure, Kroger was not the only brand of these types of stores since Lexington had its own chain of S. A. Glass stores and to some extent their service areas overlapped. What is significant is the timing of Kroger's arrival and the implementation of zoning in Lexington. It was the “Roaring Twenties.”

Zoning brought with it the progressive concept of isolating commercial interests into “planned” areas rather than allow them to evolve naturally within the normal flow of neighborhood life. The stores themselves found the need to grow in size to accommodate the larger volume, yet less frequent visits of shoppers. Americans, whether they will admit it or not, were socially engineered into believing in the benefits of modern corporate food merchandising and production.

Today, the typical supermarket is filled with more that 47,000 products across a wide range of food, and non food, selections. WalMart, while not known for being a grocery, makes 55% of its total profits from the sale of food. The availability of items 24 / 7 / 365, be they fresh, frozen, canned, processed or microwavable allows us to escape both time and season.

A century ago, people would have known exactly by whom and where their grocery items originated. There was a relationship between the housewife and the butcher, or the greengrocer, where each understood the desires of the other. Such social interactions today are few and far between though many of us are looking for them more often.

How many of us were appalled when we heard of the horse meat scandal or surprised at the size and coverage of the latest beef/vegetable/snack recall? Do any of us really know the supplier of the “better ingredients” in those “better pizzas” from Papa Johns? Did any of us recoil when we learned that the elasticizing agent in Subways bread dough was also used in yoga mats and auto tires?

The increased availability of produce has also led to the socially engineered desire for standardization and uniformity. Breeding in a consistent size and color may enhance the marketability of produce but it also allows for the rejection of entire crops for some farmers, leading to waste levels approaching 50%. Will the rising interest in heirloom varieties stem some of this waste?

Just a little research will reveal that despite the vast number of supermarket products available, a majority of these are produced and controlled by only a handful of industrial food and pharmaceutical companies. The choice that you see is only the choice that they want to see, and usually not much of a choice at all.

That choice, or lack thereof, also impacts our food policies and agricultural practices, driven by the statistics which the corporations collect. How do you want to define a “value meal?” For whom is the value the greatest, you or the supermarket? 
 
Our trust in the supermarket model to provide us with fresh, healthy, transparently produced food, is at an all-time low.” wrote Rebecca Roberts, in her piece and Joanna Blythman wrote “We are sick of being hoodwinked by the smoke-and-mirrors promotions of the big chains.” in The Guardian. How do you feel about it?

Is today's supermarket your only choice for grocery shopping? If so, here are some tools that you can use for better eating experience. Try following the first three of Brazil's 10 new rules for healthy eating:

1 Prepare meals from staple and fresh foods. 
 
Today's supermarket is laid out quite diabolically. All of the cheap processed products are in the center. The really fresh and lightly processed stuff is in the back or along the sides, so fringe shop around the edges. Buy only foods that your grandmother and great-grandmother would recognize. Eat fresh. Try to only buy products with five ingredients or less (ideally ingredients that sound like food and not something you’d find in a science-lab.)

2 Use oils, fats, sugar and salt in moderation.

3 Limit consumption of ready-to-consume food and drink products. 
 
Venture into the center for the items in number 2 only when you need them and try to limit number 3

Lastly, be very critical of the commercial advertisement of food products. They are NOT designed to inform you, either of the nutritional content or the benefit to your health. They are intended to separate you from your money. Take time to reflect on your food choices. Realize the power that each and everyone of us has in voting with our food. Spend to create a better food system and perhaps Kroger will notice.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Suburban Changes, But Nothing New - Again

Following up on the commentary from my last entry about all of the fun new doings in downtown, I thought that I would see what our suburbanite neighbors have to amuse them.

A few weeks ago it as announced that the UK HealthCare folks would occupy the former Dillard's portion of the shuttered Turfland Mall, while the remainder is to be removed. Once again, Lexington will experience a partial redevelopment a property which exemplifies the problems that brought about the EPA Consent Decree. The hundreds of parking spaces here and those retained by the Southland Christian Church on the former Lexington Mall site do precious little to reduce our storm water runoff problem.

At the corner of Lane Allen and Harrodsburg Roads, on a parcel not part of the original Turfland Mall, they are demolishing the former Verizon (General Telephone) building, to be replaced by a new Walgreen's pharmacy. It does not matter that there is a recently built CVS directly across the street or an existing Walgreen's in the former McAlpin's Home store just about 600 yards farther out the road.

This area was, at the time that the mall was constructed, a thriving blend of subdivisions with young families needing a wide range of goods and services. Apparently, now the demographics say that they are aging boomers in need of health care and pharmaceutical assistance. I still believe that a balanced mix of uses directed at the immediate neighborhoods would do everybody good.

Mayor Gray, in his statements praising the UK HealthCare decision said “UK is making health-care services more convenient for Lexington citizens, while bringing new life to Turfland Mall.” But the mall is still dead. Similar comments were also made about the Southland Christian Church and Lexington Mall and until the outlots there become developed, it too will still be dead.

In concept, the mall was never entirely about shopping or retailing, it was supposed to be about interacting with other living human beings. Victor Gruen, the man who originated the mall concept was a sociologist, not a merchant. Gruen was attempting to recreate the feel of the downtown commercial district amongst the spreading neighborhoods of suburbia, with all of its vitality and human connections. Lexington, as in most places, chose to segregate shopping from most other forms of urban vitality so that both the downtowns and the malls died.

One of the prime draws of the malls here in Lexington would have to be the cafeteria style dining places like The Blue Boar, Morrison'sCafeteria and, to a lesser degree, York Steak House. For the elderly, these mall staples were a place to gather socially and even get some exercise. As the shift, from a mix of uses toward strictly retail, neared its completion, the lack of social vibrancy drove off much of the clientele and many chances for impulse buying.

It is hard for me to understand that the rival pharmacy companies can justify being located so closely to each other when all of the stores carry essentially identical product variety and lines. When did the old style drug store advance beyond the “over the counter” first aid remedies, cosmetics and candy counter to the liquor, small hardware and snack groceries of today's big box pharmacy? What sets Rite-Aid apart from CVS or Walgreen's when they all appear so similar in building shape and layout?

At one time it was the local drug store and the neighborhood pharmacist, the image that these big chains want to project about themselves today, that occupied a prime, central spot within a residential cluster. It would have been considered an anchor business along with a barber, small grocer and civic entities like a school, firehouse or church. I may, ideally, have included a local centralized streetcar stop in order to connect with other residential clusters making up an urban area.

Since the mid twentieth century, after living that way for so long, we Americans decided that we could not continue and began to shift our style of living. We can still remember or fantasize about how it was. We can use images of the past to evoke feelings of connectedness with our present. We can repeatedly convince ourselves that our present situation is “so much better that before” while clinging tightly to those mental images of our parents' childhood. What we cannot, will not do, is duplicate the conditions which will allow our future to recreate those fading memories.

Why do our suburbanites cling so tightly to those images, more tightly than the in-town dweller, and yet not do anything that would bring reality to those memories? It may be that those who live within walking distance of downtown, and for some that varies, believe that they currently have such memories – as a reality. To them I say, your lack of action may allow your reality to quickly dissolve into equally fading images, so be vigilant and active in order to retain them.

Across town, Richmond Road has also seen its share of shifting or moving uses. From the major grocery chains moving farther out of town, while gaining up to 50% in floor area each time to the smaller structures designed specifically for fast food retailers, flipping from one chain to another. It is the rarity that any retailer will become so synonymous with the road or a neighborhood out there.

I believe that in no time before the aforementioned shift in our style of living did the primary roads connecting population centers become the hubs of commerce. To be sure, in some regions, many small communities became established and incorporated and, in time, grew to the point that they adjoined each other so as to become a population center. It is only now that those connecting roads are commercial corridors. They do not compare in scale or scope to our recent ones and often serve to unite neighborhoods rather than separate them.

Subdivisions of today bear little resemblance to those of a century ago despite the bucolic street names and the nature related neighborhood monikers. In the past 50 years we have fallen victim to the silver tongued marketing specialists not only in our increasingly dehumanized food supply, but what may be called a similarly dehumanized residence supply. After giving that game a try nearly 20 years ago, I do not want to play that game again. They do not really want what they think that they are buying.