Thursday, September 4, 2008

Shropshire Ave being continued

Well, now we all have seen the recent developments in the Bluegrass Aspendale area. The beautiful new school, the new residences and the connectivity through the neighborhood that just wasn't there before. Which brings me to the completion of Shropshire Ave.

Shropshire Avenue first showed up on the plat for the Loudon Park subdivision in the 1890's. It runs south from Loudon Ave across Seventh St to end at Breckenridge St. and at the rear of the grandstand of the Kentucky Association race track. The Loudon Park Building Association would build the houses on lots purchased from the Belt Land Company and when the homeowner bought his home aranged for a weekly payment plan. The Kentucky Traction and Terminal Co. opperated a streetcar line along Loudon to Shropshire, then turning onto Shelby St., then Jackson St. crossing E. Seventh St. to Breckenridge St before turning back toward Race St and the entrance to the race track. Sadly this streetcar system would last only until April, 1938. It did last longer than the race track, which closed in 1933.

The Kentucky Association track gave way to the first two housing projects in Lexington. Bluegrass Park contained 144 units for white residents and Aspendale had 142 for black. Since this was in the middle of the segregationist South, there was no connection between them. Bluegrass Park stood at the end of E. Sixth St and Aspendale at the end of E Fifth St. and each was arranged around a central oval park area. At the eastern end and centrally located between them was a power house for the generation of electricity and, I believe, steam heat. The remainder of the race track property plus an adjoining subdivision was filled with an additional 800 units in the early 1950's. At some point a roadway connection was made from Bluegrass Park to Breckenridge St. and as it was just barely offset from the existing Shropshire St., it carried the name into the the housing development.

This is how it remained for roughly 40 years with minimal maintenance, often multiple generations of the same families living next door to each other(or together), the end of segregation and the "white flight" of even the poor white residents. Public attitudes changed toward dense public housing and a plan was developed to thin out the number of structures on the property. Separating the area into five "pods" of non-connected strees was thought to bring a sense of neighborhoods to the "project", but the planners failed to talk to those who lived there and ask how they saw the neighborhood. The Housing Authority went back to the drawing board and after a few years of applying for Federal "Hope IV" grants , finally recieved enough money to redevelop the entire area.

The area now boasts quality affordable housing, a grid style street pattern and a modern elementary school. E. Fourth St has been extended as well as Fifth and Sixth Sts. in the east/west axis, but the BIG connection is the extension of Shropshire St. It now continues south to the narrow alley like Grinstead St. (I feel that this is named for a local horse trainer who stabled his horses on the backside of the old race track.) Lexington's plans for this area in the 1980's included the proposal to create a couplet of "one way streets" out of Third and Fourth Sts. and the governmandent began aquiring property to accomplish this. In 2001, the "couplet" idea was abandoned for a concept of enhancing the Third St corridor and using some of the property already aquired for the continuation of Shropshire St. across Third St., along a widened Ann St. to a new intersection with Midland Ave. I am happy to say that it is now very soon to be completed.

This new connection will allow traffic to go from downtown to Loudon Ave. in a more direct way than has been possible before. Although it is labeled a "local" street it will probably function as a "collector" and allow school related traffic(parents before and after school) to flow more easily. I can foresee a traffic signal at Midland Ave. and at Third St. although the State Transportation folks say "no way". I just hope that no one get injured (or killed) before they do allow one to be placed there.

Until next time, keep your eyes open for more jewels along the roadways.

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