Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Federal Transportation Policy vs. Lexington's

OK, It's time to quit lazing about, the birthday celebrations are over.

I must admit, when the new Secretary of Transportation was named, I had a few reservations but Ray LaHood has been a refreshing breeze through Washington. I have seen more out of him than all the past three combined. I am especially heartened by the emphasis he has placed on urban transit.

The other day the Secretary appeared before a Senate committee. The topic was Transportation's Role in Climate Change and Reducing Greenhouse Gases and he presented four major points:
* We must take action to make all forms of transportation more fuel efficient while stepping up efforts to introduce low-carbon fuels and alternative power sources for all types of vehicles.
I see many more hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles these days in the private sector but not so much in the transportation services (buses, vanpools, taxis, etc...) and the delivery services seem to be getting larger and more garish trucks every day. Just how long will it take for these folks to come around?
* However, even if we were to achieve a 55 mile-per-gallon fuel efficiency standard in the coming years, carbon emission levels from transportation would still only decline modestly. We must implement policies and programs that reduce vehicle miles driven.
This is a double edged sword, in that it lower carbon emissions and reduces the amount paid into the transportation trust fund now dedicated to highways. The subsidies for all transportation modes will have to become more equitable for them to be sustainable. It also goes into the realm of urban policy and land use.

Lexington has tried a program of "live where you work" in which housing was to be subsidized for those who work around or near the downtown or University. It drew a small number of the willing and eventually had to expand the allowable residential area. Maybe what we need now is a "work where you live" scenario to allow more residential over retail that has all but disappeared since the implementation of zoning and the "comprehensive planning" movement of the '20s. The "walk to shopping" concept that used to exist has died since the surge in sprawl began in the late '40s. This will need to be reversed.
* This means providing communities with additional transportation choices, such as light rail, fuel-efficient buses, and paths for pedestrians and bicycles that intersect with transit centers. These options will also reduce household transportation costs, strengthen local economies, lower traffic congestion, and reduce reliance on foreign oil.
While he is speaking directly to personal transportation issues here, they also apply to the commercial freight and delivery services industry. The transit centers will, or should, include a reasonable amount of transit oriented development (TOD) yet Lexington has not started to provide for the possibility so far. Bicycles and pedestrian facilities are being planned and the population has not reached the tipping point for light rail, but we should be beginning to look at tying all of them together.
* Our strategy also calls for investing transportation dollars in coordination with housing and economic development. By doing so, we can promote strong communities with mixed-income housing located close to transit in walkable neighborhoods.
So, there you have it. A Federal policy that Lexington is currently NOT on board with. We apparently still believe that we can build our way out of traffic congestion and planning for larger and larger residential that is farther from the existing (or proposed) commercial uses. Transit centers with walkable neighborhoods is a concept that has never shown up on any Lexington comprehensive plan.

It is about time.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tempest on South Limestone

Once again the citizens are revolting. The South Limestone Business Owners Association has filed a lawsuit to delay the street renovations some more, just when they should be hitting the end of their first two months of work.

Yes, they should have started the week after the students left town for the summer. For this we can and do blame the Urban County Council. As it is now, we have a small group of business owners, concentrated in a limited area, asking that the whole project be halted because of a little difficulty being delivered to.

I was out there today and from what I saw, things are not going all that badly. At the noontime hour, Hanna's had what looked like a full seating, Failte had a couple exiting the shop with purchases, the tailor shop had a sign in the window stating that they were on vacation for a couple of weeks and the Soundbar was not open for lunch. The Bombay Brazier has moved their entrance to the High St doorway and I can never tell how well they do at noon.

In the above photo you can clearly see that there is one lane open and that people have entered and left by way of the intersection with Chrysalis Ct. The church parking lot was also available.

On the other hand, as I got closer to campus and the work became louder and dustier, there were people seated on the patios from the Tin Roof all the way to Pazzo's. Even the McDonald's had someone at the drive thru. There were people associated with the university and the hospital personnel all making their way to get something to eat.

All the owners along the southern section, when interviewed, seem to be positive about the project and most say that business is no worse than usual.

Now, what I did find as a bit of irony, was that the Kimball Square project is still trying to lease the ground floor units and have been for months. This may put a crimp in their ability to do so even more for the next year.

And finally, above is a photo that I took back in May, as the Soundbar was finishing up on their renovations. I had tried to get this shot for about 2 months but there were always some contractors vehicles in the way, usually blocking the sidewalk. I wonder if the neighboring businesses said anything about that. And while we are wondering, consider this, how many of these businesses rely on drive up traffic more than walk up patrons?

Does anybody here the cry of "wolf"?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Avenue of Champions Question

Earlier today one of my more infrequent visitors did a search on Google which was oddly specific ”when was the few blocks of Euclid avenue that runs through the University of Kentucky named "Avenue of Champions?". I don’t know if they got their answer or not (but I doubt from the sites listed on the response screen that I saw. Mrs. Sweeper and I both thought that this is just up my alley, so here is my take on an answer.

The street segments in question date from the 1880’s and were an extension of Winslow St that was part of the Stephens & Winslow plat which covered the west side of S. Limestone from Maxwell to Winslow and almost to Broadway. The construction firm of Stephens & Winslow built the structure recognized as Henry Clay’s law office and Winslow Street is probably named for Mr. Winslow. In the late 1880’s this street(just a dirt path) led to a subdivision of narrow lots and shotgun shanties known as Adamstown and formed the northern border of the State College property.

One again I turn to the Lexington Library’s History Index for some headlines and quotes. After the turn of the last century, the University folks started asking for help from the city fathers. First of they wanted the dirt path upgraded to a street, as shown below.
"Board of Works "Through Assistant City Engineer J. White Guyn an urgent request from the State University people has been communicated the Board of Public Works to have Winslow street extending from South Limestone cast towards the university ball park improved.
Lexington Leader Oct. 12, 1909
Now, one has to realize that the Aylesford subdivision had been built on the east side of Rose St (formerly called Van Pelt) starting in 1904 and contained a wide paved thoroughfare named Euclid Ave. Also the university ball park referred to was the old Stoll Field, now the location of the Singletary Center for the Arts.

The city took its time to research and reply.
Winslow Street not property of city and not legal to repair same.
Lexington Herald Dec. 28, 1911
Even so, two years later the street improvements were still being talked about. And still being held up by a select few, as we see below.
"Winslow Street to be improved""The only reason that Winslow Street, which borders the State University, is not now a wide, well-improved street, is because of the request made by the members of the State University faculty to postpone action," said Mayor Cassidy on Wednesday morning. "The construction of an improved street from Limestone to Rose Street is necessary in order to give proper facilities to traffic in that part of the city and would have been done in the first year of my term if I had had my way," continued Mayor Cassidy.
Lexington Leader Dec. 10, 1913
The Adamstown area was one of a handful of small “colored communities” inside the city’s one mile radius city limits as detailed in this Leader piece.
"Eight Little Towns in Lexington "Reporters commentary on eight "towns" in the corporate city limits of Lexington. He describes the boundaries of Pralltown, Irishtown, Yellmantown, Brucetown, Smithtown, Taylortown, Goodloetown and Adamstown. In some cases the derivation of the name of the "town" is given.
Lexington Leader Feb. 1, 1914
And apparently this sparked some interest in the area by local investors and developers, as we see here.
"Aims at colored part of Winslow and Adamstown "The most interesting development in the real estate world this week is the announcement by Patrick Devereux that he has practically competed plans for the complete elimination of Adamstown and Winslow Street as a colored section, and is now perfecting plans for the transformation of the entire section bounded by College View Avenue, Limestone street, the State University campus and Rose Street, with modern public improvements and restrictions.
Lexington Leader Aug. 2, 1914
And after about 6 years of talking (and I am sure the proper advance notification)work began .
Grading on Winslow Street from South Limestone to Rose Street and laying of asphalt begins.
Lexington Herald Feb. 5 1915
Then, almost 2YEARS later.
Winslow Street opened to traffic; just completed and covered with asphalt from Limestone to Rose Street, 1800 feet.
Lexington Herald Nov. 4, 1916
Then there came a break for World War I and the “Roaring Twenties” hit the university area. Fraternities were in
"$25,000 capital "Articles of incorporation of the Harold A. Pulliam Sigma Nu Memorial Association which will soon erect a fraternity house on Winslow street opposite the University of Kentucky campus.
Lexington Leader Mar. 1, 1920

Sigma Chi files application to erect fraternity house for $30,000 on Winslow Street.
Lexington Herald May 6, 1920
The University started buying property for the dormitories and other commercial developers brought Harrison St and Lexington Ave on to Winslow near the fraternity houses which then brought the street closer in function to the road to the east, than to the narrower one to the west. Thus the city again stepped in and did the following.
Names of streets changed Drake from Main to High to Grant Street, Alfred Street to Hilton Avenue, Winslow East of Limestone to be Euclid Avenue.
Lexington Herald Nov. 21, 1925
On the south side of the street, the University built a gymnasium for their basketball team and hired a young coach named Adolph Rupp, and we all know what that started. A little later they built a new football stadium and eventually hired a coach, one Paul “Bear” Bryant, and he developed a pretty good football team. So much so, that by the late ‘40s they were talking about a new basketball facility across from the football field, bought the property, and built Memorial Coliseum. The basketball Wildcats had won 3 NCAA Championships in four years and the football Wildcats were on their way to 2 out of 3 bowl games in as many years.

The University then gathered as much hubris as they could muster and asked the city council to rename the section that ran between the two sports facilities, which they did in early April 1951.
"'Avenue of Champions' Likely New Name For Block of Euclid "The section of Euclid Avenue, between Limestone and Rose Streets, soon may be known as the "Avenue of Champions." The Board of City Commissioners will vote Thursday morning on an ordinance proposing the name change in honor of University of Kentucky football and basketball teams.
Lexington Leader Apr. 4, 1951
Paul “Bear” Bryant left in 1953 and it took another 8 years to win another NCAA basketball championship. Both men’s basketball and football have left the area now but some of us still remember the glory years and the street that celebrates them.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Let Us Not Follow Austin

Has anyone seen any evidence of the Colt downtown circulator? I was to understand that the service would start this summer and anybody who has followed me for long will know that I am not a fan of the "faux" trolley idea. I, for one, have seen only one of these units on the street, and that was probably just a test run.

As some of you may know, the 2 units that Lextran currently has on site are used, cast off units from Austin, Tx., generously supplied by Lextran's former manager who now works in Austin. They are basically identical to the four that the Knight-Ridder people discontinued some years ago. Lextran has ordered some hybrid units to compliment these for the full service and is waiting for them to arrive before the full rollout.

Austin, that mecca of weird, that sentinel of progressiveness that so many here want to emulate, even though they are about 3 times larger in population and industry, is on the verge of killing off their once popular "Dillo" service or their downtown circulator. They are finding that the wooden seats are uncomfortable and the routes are constantly changing and, best of all, the upkeep is expensive. Is that why they sent a couple to Lexington? Their once free service now charges a fare and averages about 2 riders a circuit, so would ours do any better?

I have written before about the problems that I see in this circulator system but here is a consultants view on downtown circulators in general. Have I seen these situations before?

Maybe we should just skip the "follow Austin" suggestion for now and move right to the "plan to beat Austin" idea, lets build a real streetcar now, to go where the people want it to go and have it in place for when we are 3 times larger than we are now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How Do You Let Folks Know About Downtown?

As I was leaving work this past Friday, I was confronted with a back-up of traffic on Limestone as it headed north toward Main St. Ahead of me I could see the flashing red and blue lights of a number of police cars and the Limestone traffic being detoured onto Main St, therefore I figured that there must be a problem at the Courthouse Plaza. Crossing Main, I saw the mobile command post and an event vendors tent being set-up along with not a few hay bales beside the road. I asked a couple of officers about the stree closure and was told "There is going to be a bike race".

A downtown, evening bike race. Lexington's own mini tour d' Lexington time trial. THis was something that I would have been all over about 30 years ago. But where was the promotion for it? Who was promoting it? What time was it going to start? And why could they not let the auto traffic get out of downtown before they closed the streets?

That last question was the toughie. The officers didn't know and one said that someone higher above him had set the closure time. Friday afternoon rush hour traffic is usually gone by 5:30 and the summer evening dinner traffic doesn't pick up for a while, so why the rush to close the streets?

Better yet, did any one of those afternoon traffic alert reports mention that the streets downtown would have lane closures? Did Officer Don say anything about it that morning OR afternoon? Lexington's Traffic Engineering Division does not grant these things on short notice so I doubt that this could not have been publicized. So, where was the Herald Leader and their cycling writer Tom Eblen? Was he out staking out Dudley's house?

I looked for a published report of the results of the race and for two days have come up lacking. I fear that this will be the way things are handled for the Spotlight Lexington events and the Re-medaling ceremonies of the WEG downtown. This, following so closely on the heels of the South Limestone streetscape debacle leaves a bit to be desired from the Office of Government Communications in the realm of transparency to the public.

I would have liked to stay downtown and watch the race(if only I had known about it) and hope that there will be others in the future. I also hope that it is handled differently at that time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I received a comment from a regular reader yesterday and from some of her words I can clearly tell that she either “mis-remembers” or has been misinformed about the history of the vacant downtown block. In relation to the state of the now demolished buildings, she says;
“I do know that some of the damage found was deliberate; the Woolworth building, for example, was vacated (the tenant was not permitted to renew) and not put up for rent, left empty for years, and not maintained deliberately so that it could be condemned and torn down despite its historic status, and paved into the current parking lot.”
I thought that I would set the record straight and give you the story, as chronicled by the Lexington-Herald Leader and maintained in the Local History Index from the Lexington Public Library. In June of 1987, some enterprising reporter(do we have any of those anymore?) did a piece on a downtown fixture that was not doing the business that it once enjoyed but had kept the original facade on their building as from the ‘40s.
"Woolworth building joined the old things in a new way"…The architecture of the Woolworth building is a transition style because in motif it reaches back to the revival traditions: It puts "old" things together in new ways. The interior of the Woolworth building is largely original, although some of its early functions are no longer a part of the marketing strategy of the 1980's.
One year later the headlines trumpeted that although the lease was nearly up the company had exercised their option to remain downtown. They were showing that they believed in the revival being predicted.
"Repairs at Woolworth are a sign of things not to come"… As every real estate developer in town knows, Woolworth's 40-year lease on the store at Main and Limestone streets runs out in 1989. Developers know it because several have considered buying the corner, in the heart of downtown, and putting up a modern building. It won't happen - not before 1999, anyway. Woolworth is exercising an option and extending its lease for 10 more years.

Sadly reality set in and one and a half years later the end of Woolworth’s on Main St was announced. The business was closing but the building would remain. About the same time as the new downtown library was being built, this block began its slow decline.
"Downtown Woolworth's to close doors "F.W. Woolworth Co. is closing its "five and ten cent store" at 106 West Main Street that represents 88 years of retailing in downtown Lexington.

"Woolworth closing set for Jan. 13"The F.W. Woolworth store in downtown Lexington will close Jan. 13, but the future of the Woolworth building at 106 West Main Street remains in doubt.
In late 1993, while the City was demolishing the block cat-a-corner to this location for the then promised “cultural center” and which is now the new court houses and plaza, the Woolworth site was being considered for some of the required parking
"Woolworth may also be candidate for razing "Ongoing demolition of those Ben Snyder block buildings prompted this related question: Is there still talk of razing the old downtown Woolworth building to make room for a parking lot?
Fast forward to 1999 and we see that the local preservation group has included this building on its endangered list. Unfortunately most of them would not survive.
"'Eleven in their 11th hour' "The Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation yesterday released its first-ever list of endangered historic sites in Central Kentucky. The properties included in the "Eleven in their 11th hour" list are:… (In Fayette County the old sanctuary at Calvary Baptist Church, the Dunn Building, Limestone Street from Vine to Third Street, the house at 207 South Limestone, the James McConnell House, Placentia, the Williamson-Price House and the F.W. Woolworth Building).
The dawn of the new century brought a renewed call for some type of redevelopment or reuse of the old building even though it was less than 50 years old at the time. This is the time that any real discussion for a project on this block began
"Raze or reuse"… Yet it's the future of the old F.W. Woolworth building that has people concerned. Once a staple of Main Streets across America, Woolworth closed its doors in downtown Lexington 10 years ago last month, and the company's lease at 106 West Main Street --- extended just before the store closed --- ran out Monday. After a decade of decay, the three-story building at the center of town has become one of Lexington's most well-known eyesores. But while some see the southwest corner of Main and Limestone as ripe for redevelopment, others say the art deco building with 40,000 square feet of space should be saved for retail or office use.
This was also the time that Lexington thought that they could lure some of the “high tech” giants or even some of their spin-offs, to become a player in the “new economy”. That was right before a good deal of them went bust.
"City real estate ripe to reap dot-coms "Picture this: the year is 2005 and high-tech, e-commerce, dot-com companies are sprouting in spaces such as former storefronts and old warehouses downtown and around the University of Kentucky. Lexington buildings that make "new economy" pioneers drool include the F.W. Woolworth store on West Main Street, South Hill Station on South Upper street and tobacco warehouses on and around South Broadway.
It was such an inviting scenario that the State and City jumped onto the band wagon, and in my opinion, just about guarantied some sort of failure. In the words of one of my favorite Lord of the Rings characters Gimli “Certainty of death. Small chance of success. What are we waiting for? …”. Even the school of Architecture got involved.
"Woolworth building renovation could begin soon "Workers could begin transforming the old F.W. Woolworth Building on West Main Street into a haven for high-tech business within months. State officials approved a $500,000 grant for the $3.2 million project yesterday, adding to the $1 million already committed by the city and private donors.

"UK rekindles hope for old Woolworth's "It appears the dust has finally been blown off a $3.2 million plan to transform the old F. W. Woolworth Building on West Main Street into a high tech haven. The Buzz has learned that a class of University of Kentucky architecture students is busy sketching designs for a renovation of the building and project backers are holding informal talks with UK about what offices and classes they could locate and offer in the building. The renovated building, now dubbed The Factory, would provide 41,000 square feet of work space at low rents for early-stage technology.
"'Factory to rise from Woolworth's remains "In the next 18 months, not far from Lexington's Phoenix Park, a crumbling building may rise again. The 53-year-old Woolworth building, once a vibrant downtown shopping locale, has been dying since the store closed its doors a decade ago. Its walls are decaying, and varmints have taken over its insides. But after a year and a half of discussion and negotiations, city officials announced yesterday that they and owners Joe Rosenberg and family have reached an agreement that could help revive the structure.
After two years of waiting(the locals won’t do that today), the State, seeing the handwriting on the wall, began to back off their decision to be involved and took their money back. The funding dried up(without the death of an un-named investor) and the price tag began to grow.
"Agency withdraws money for Woolworth Building "The state of Kentucky yesterday withdrew a half-million dollars in funding for the renovation of the Woolworth Building in Lexington because of delays caused by the discovery of structural deficiencies that could raise the cost of the project. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority withdrew its approval of the funding until project officials can get a final assessment of the cost. Officials can reapply for funding after July 15, the start of the next fiscal funding year.
"Woolworth plan fading fast "Longtime hopes of remaking a dilapidated downtown Lexington building into a high-tech incubator are fading fast, according to some of the project's supporters. An architectural study of the old F. W. Woolworth Building at 106 West Main Street suggests it will cost $5 million to rehab the building and stock it with the latest technology, up from the $3.1 million a consortium of private backers and politicians had hoped to spend on the project.
By the end of the summer in 2002 any plans for renovating the Woolworth building looked like pipe dreams in the wind.
“Finding a home for high-tech "Backers of a high-tech business incubator in Lexington have shifted their attention to another downtown spot: the Blue Max building at Main and Upper streets. The multimillion-dollar project was long planned for the old F. W. Woolworth building on West Main Street, but recent revelations about that building's poor condition have cast doubt on the site, said Kris Kimel, president of the non-profit Kentucky Science and Technology Corp. "This building would allow us to do the same thing, only on a smaller scale," Kimel said yesterday after a meeting of the Kentucky Innovation Commission.
This “Blue Max” building that they are talking about could not be the old Courthouse, the 1915 National Bank Building or the cast iron fronted McAdams & Morford building(current location of Hugo’s), so it has to be the Buster’s location. This would make it a much smaller project.

The property owner, Mr. Rosenberg(for all his faults), having been strung along by the government and justifiably unwilling to spend money for repairs to a building which others wanted to renovate, finally realized that the building was now an economic liability and chose to demolish it.
"Owner set to raze Woolworth "A historic downtown building that city leaders had hoped to turn into a high-tech business incubator is now designated to become a parking lot. Joe Rosenberg, owner of the long-vacant F. W. Woolworth Building at 106 West Main Street, applied for a demolition permit last month, saying the building is unsafe.

"Owner tells board he might abandon Woolworth building "One way or another, the old F. W. Woolworth building at 106 West Main Street will come down, vowed majority owner Joe Rosenberg during a passionate debate yesterday over the historic building's future. If the Downtown Design Review Board doesn't approve Rosenberg's demolition request when it meets again Wednesday morning, he vowed to abandon the building and make the city pay for its destruction.
Late September, 2002 and the wrecking ball is ready to fly…, but wait, here come the preservationists again.
"Woolworth Building to fall "The old F. W. Woolworth Building on Main Street will come down, beginning Tuesday. And majority owner Joe Rosenberg said there is plenty of blame to go around for the historic building's demise. In a 3-1 vote yesterday morning, the Downtown Design Review Board approved an application to demolish the historic structure, agreeing with Rosenberg that the building has no economic value. Preservationists were disappointed with the outcome, calling it "too hasty."

"Woolworth demolition delayed "Preservationists fighting to save the F. W. Woolworth building from the wrecking ball have won a temporary reprieve. On Wednesday, Joe Rosenberg, owner of the long-vacant Woolworth building at 106 West Main Street, received approval to demolish the building from the Downtown Design Review Board, a five-member panel charged with overseeing design guidelines for the downtown core.
All through the Spring of 2003 Mr. Rosenberg and the preservationists worked to find some way to save and restore the building. No one threatened to run Mr. Rosenberg out of town, nor do they do so today.
"Woolworth building's fate still open to discussion "The old F. W. Woolworth Building at 106 West Main Street will see at least one more spring. The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation and owner Joe Rosenberg now have until May 8 to find a way to save the building, which was approved for demolition by the Downtown Design Review Committee last fall.

"Group still hopes to save building "An appeal blocking destruction of the old F. W. Woolworth building at 106 West Main Street has been dropped, but don't expect the long-vacant building to fall any time soon. The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation withdrew its appeal of the planned demolition because "we have faith that the plans that are in place will be successful in saving the building," said Zanne Jefferies, preservation and education coordinator for the trust. Jefferies would not say what plans for the 48,904-square-foot building entail, but suggested details might be finalized by month's end.
Finally, the clock ran out and the Woolworth building met a similar fate to the venerable Graves & Cox store next door and became a parking lot.
"Woolworth building runs out of options, will be torn down "The former F.W. Woolworth at 106 West Main Street has a date with the wrecking ball in about three weeks -- and preservationists are unlikely to object this time. "We are at the end," Joe Rosenberg said yesterday. "It's disappointing, but I don’t known what else to do….It's something I don't look forward to doing." Rosenberg, whose family owns about 90 percent of the Woolworth property, said the site will become a parking lot unless a buyer steps forward.
Fourteen years and innumerable dollars spent just talking about how to renovate, rehabilitate or reuse a downtown structure, which was probably in better shape than the others on the block. This is just one of the block’s buildings that was assessed individually and this is how the story ended. I doubt that the others could have fared much better.

The condo sites that she speaks of, and the Woodland /High site in particular, according to one of the architects involved, the building’s construction crew would not follow the proper procedures so that now the brick work needs to be redone and many other interior details need looking at. And I fail to see the relevance of the current condo projects being sold or rented, if the end result is getting people to live downtown. I can take you to many subdivision streets that were built to own, but spent many years being rental property.

As always, I look forward to hearing from all of you. Keep the comments coming.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Power Lines, What Can We Really Do About Them

I have disliked high voltage powerlines and the gashes they make through the countryside for a long time. They don't follow any natural features nor do they define any logical areas and only in urban areas do they follow streets or property lines and that because they were there first. They do have their good points, or so my father said, when they paid him a fair price and a decent yearly fee for an easement across the family farm back in the early '60s.

The smaller urban trunk lines can also be fairly ugly when they spring into view along some our major roadways like those being built on Euclid Ave to service the new UK hospital. I would think that they could place them underground on some stretches, but they say that it is cost prohibitive. A truly "green" building could help generate some of its own power so as not to require such a massive trunk line as they are building. As a follow up to one of my earlier posts, why does the University not lead in the development of alternative energy sources on all of its new building and the retrofitting of its existing ones?

This was all brought to mind because of the new plan for the property along Angliana Ave with the 12 cinemas, the bowling lanes and the 80,000 sq. ft. commercial structure(possibly a big box grocery, though they really haven't done well in the area). There is a major trunk power line right at the street edge and these building do sit a lot closer to the road than a suburban model would place them, the development would look a lot cleaner if the lines were buried. Then there is the situation with the "iconic" tower and restaurant near those same power lines. If natural alternative energy sources were used for this project would such a major trunk still be needed? Alas, if the old streetcar/interurban line still ran down Angliana would all that parking be needed?

I am not so naive as to believe that individual buildings can supply all of their energy needs from alternative sources, or even a major portion. I am just saying that any reduction in the need to move massive voltages through urban areas, and especially above ground, will make our city a much cleaner city.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Something I Heard A Bird Tweet

I've had a pretty weird weekend these past few days, what with the rain and some family things. Thanks to a viewer who sent a link by twitter, I have had way more visitors than normal. This person thinks that I am somewhat normally a progressive-minded "Lexingtonian blogger" yet for some reason misguided on CentrePointe. He has even told a fellow twit that I was, for Lexington, mildly progressive. Well, I have my reasons for being behind the CentrePointe project and have stated them here before and if enticing large amounts of foreign money to be spent in Lexington, then Keeneland, The Horse Park and the WEG are all sure to be losers in the long run.

I have had people tell me that the CentrePointe project will only be for the rich and that to locals will not be able to live/shop/stay there. To that I would wonder, just how many local Louisvillians stay at the Galt House on a regular basis. Do the local suburbanites spend a lot of their money there? Is the majority of the profit generated by them coming from the local economy, or from outside sources? This is how I see the Marriot hotel and foreign owned condos of the CentrePointe tower, a generator of new money for the Lexington economy. Was this the case for the businesses formerly housed on that block? Do the investors who ownThe Dame bring in money or send it out, with the traveling bands/dividends to investors? What other ventures on that block have brought in as large an influx of foreign cash?

This aforementioned fellow twit has called me a curmudgeonly old man who thinks working where I do makes me special. Nothing make me special except the talents that I bring to the job, and for over 35 years those talents have kept me employed and a taxpaying member of society. I don't need a recent UK graduate or anyone else to tell me what I should think about being special, because just about anyone can become a UK graduate.

The thoughts that appear here are what I believe, whether you agree with them or not. The fact that a goodly number of you keep returning to read what I write means that, to some degree, you like to hear what I have to say, though, I also will return to those with whom I disagree, so that I can laugh at their latest folly.

Some of you have made comments which imply that my thoughts are so very wrong, yet offer no real thoughts of your own. Some have asked for further thoughts without saying whether you agree. I will continue to record my thoughts and experiences and you may continue to drop by to read them. For that I thank you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

European Visitors

Yesterday, Wednesday, the Courthouse Area Design Review Committee met for their regular session and discussed the CentrePointe application for re-approval. The local new covered it well and so did several bloggers/tweeters. Tom Eblen also wrote about it on his well read blog and I commented, mostly in response to another comment.

I do not understand why some people have to continually call for eminent domain to be used on this property when it is clearly a misuse of the law to take from a private citizen and give to another or believe that the block is the city's to take back from one to whom it was never given.

Nor do I understand why the newspaper and Eblen in particular have been so against this project, even from before it was announced.

What I do know is that this is not just followed in Lexington, but from around the world, thanks to the World Wide Web. Someone in Germany is following the reporting via the blogs and as I read, Mr Webb is in Europe dealing with the investors family. Mr Webb has said that he dosen't put much stock in what bloggers have to say about his business, but I imagine that he does keep up with what they say.

Shortly after I made my comment and approximately 1:30 in the morning, my blog received a visitor from what Site Meter identified as an unknown site. I get a few of these a month and think nothing of it, until today. My other site stats counter Go Stats gave me the location as being in Germany and, given the time difference, it would be just about breakfast time there.

So tell me, who would be searching for information about CentrePointe from Germany? A European country with a good number of wealthy investors, some complicated inheritance laws and an ethical sense of family history and respect for an elders wishes. Was this a visit by someone in the Webb party or just a side shot from Eblen's post?

I may never know, but I don't believe in coincidence.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Parking Hurdles

I t has been widely reported that John Tresaloni, the owner of the Fishtank on Euclid, was opening another music venue, Cosmic Charlie's, across the street where Lynagh's used to be. It is to be a site for an older crowd than those who frequent his current location, those who want to be going home about the time the younger crowd comes out to play. Some the bands that play there are comprised of some of us "old fogeys" who themselves need to get up for work the next morning.

Well, I heard through a friend, that they went for a building permit(to rebuild and enlarge the stage area, I believe) and have been stymied by the parking requirements of the zone. Parking spaces are required for every so many square feet of building area or so many seats for restaurants/bars, and it seems that there may not be enough in the lot. I think that the calculation may have changed over the years but there were never enough back when the place was built and the Library Lounge opened in that space.

The Library was a very popular spot back in the early '70s and brought people from all over the city. It also left them with almost no place to park. The location, close to the UK campus, was also a good distance from where the young people wished to live, which was NOT on campus. There was an on-going dispute between the patrons and the neighborhood for several years, then the fad wore off and the clientele became tired of the ticketing and the towing and went off to other venues.

The bar went through a series of owners and at one point declined to the level of a strip club in the late '80s and has mostly languished except for time of John Lynagh's control. All of this is to say that as ill conceived as this strip shopping center was(a suburban model near the city center), it has never had a sufficient amount of parking for whatever has occupied the spaces.

Even nearby Chevy Chase has trouble cramming all the vehicular traffic into the surface lots around and in front of their businesses. These redevelopments of older areas need to maintain the look and feel of what was there before, a walkable neighborhood shopping design with the building up on the street so that you can step right in from the sidewalk.

There has been some talk about revising the parking requirements and such for the close in neighborhood shopping areas but we also need to get serious about our transit needs, our walkability needs and our auto dependence needs. This could take care of a lot of our problems.

If our desire is to increase the density of population in the inner city, and by that I mean a two mile radius of Main and Lime, then we need to rid ourselves of the notion of 2-3 cars per household and the only way that that will happen is to beef up the transit options along with the housing options. Housing within a short walk or bike/trolley ride will do wonders for environment and the waistline. Multiple transit options to school or employment would mean fewer auto trips. All of these would mean a better quality of life for the residents of Lexington.

And allow people like John Tresaloni to provide a solution to a need that he has identified without jumping through needless government hoops.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Friday night we went to the Patriotic Concert at Transylvania as we always do. On the way we passed the corner of Third and Elm Tree Ln.

This is what the art stop looked like around noon on Thursday and below is a rendering of the completed project.

Of all the project that I have blogged about along this corridor, this is probably the most exciting and the first one to be underway(and its well on its way to completion).

The sculpture (seen below) to be placed near the corner of the two streets is interesting and colorful. I hope to have some information on the sculptor in the next day or so, so stay tuned.
The Urban County Council approved a business plan for the Lyric across the street and have a construction supervisor in place so that work can begin there soon. This section of Third St is beginning to move in the right direction. And as a gentleman I spoke to last Thursday said "If we can keep the homeless from sleeping in the bus stop and graffiti off the art work, this will be real nice".

I think that this will be real nice indeed.