Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Downtown Circulator, 10+ Months And Counting

One of my sources has revealed to me that the Lextran "Colt" service is just about ready to be set free on the streets of Lexington. If you remember, this is the faux "trolley" system that was formerly known as the downtown circulator.

There were to be two routes. One along Limestone and Upper streets and running between Transy and UK . The other along Main and Vine, although I still believe that a Main and Short loop is far more preferable. With South Limestone in the middle of extensive roadwork expected to be completed in July, I guess that this route will come some time from now.

A recent meeting of the committee directing the Colt service discussed the finalization of the Main/? route. Woodford Webb, a major player in this venture, was not in attendance but he did send someone in his place. I am told that representatives of UK and Transylvania also missed the meeting. Other key supporters, Phil Holoubek who holds key parcels on Short St. and Harold Tate the director of Lexington DDA pushed for the route along Main and Short, purely for reasons that I pointed out back in January.

I am told that Mr Holoubek informed this committee that "an older gentleman around town" had made this suggestion in a blog. Is he talking about me? Does Phil follow my blog? If so, how many other ideas have gone farther than this mere blip in cyberspace? (And I refuse to think of myself as an older gentleman, even at my age.)

I am sure that Mr. Tate and Mr Holoubek have the best interest of this city(and their own investments ) at heart, but I hear that this decision went the way of all "high level" decisions. This decision was made by using the golden rule-he that has the gold, makes the rules. Thats right, you've got it, the Webb Companies will be paying for a "trolley that runs around their development and serves everybody else on the periphery. It makes no difference that the route passes practically NOTHING else along Vine St that could be considered a destination, or that the previous "trolleys" had to be run along the Old Vine St. in order to justify their being on the east end of Main St. If this Main/Vine route makes sense, then the UK to Transy route using Upper and Mill(until S. Limestone is finished) would also make sense.

I am not in favor of this tourist attraction and you can go back and see that I have not been silent about my concerns, but if we are going to follow through with this, then it should be done as best as can be done. I, for one, cannot see leaving my office , catching the "trolley" to a restaurant in Victorian Square and arriving in less time than I could have walked there. I also don't want to see this set of baby steps get tripped up by any construction, either near-term streetscape or long-term major building work(Remember, they would like to get started tomorrow).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lexington's Image, Revitalize It Or Not?

Rebecca Ryan, a Madison Wis. consultant, came to town recently and gave her opinion of what we need to do to jump start Lexington's race into the future. That make about 28,000 and one. I figure that just about everybody has an opinion of what to do in Lexington and can find 100 or so others to go along with him. We also know that consultants have credibility that is inversely proportionate to the distance that they had to travel to do the study. Let us look at some of what she said.

I don't see anything on the CommerceLexington website so I'll have to go by the Herald-Leader story.

Ms. Ryan first gives us what we already know, that God has blessed Lexington with some of the best natural beauty available. The educated work force and the population diversity are of more a product of our own selection. Just about everywhere that people settle has some sort of natural beauty that the residents desire to be around, so this is a very generic platitude to start out with.

I believe that all Lexingtonians feel that we don't NEED a mountain, more sunshine, or a couple of lakes to be "world class", but then I don't think that Madison is on any list of world class cities either. World class, in her opinion, has more to do with how the residents attitudes are than with the considerations of the world opinion at large. To "be" world class, to most people, is to measure up to the standards of other cities around the world, to be mentioned in the same breath and sentence with other cities. Ones attitude of being a runner may be good, but means nothing until he competes with the best of the rest of the world.

While here, Ms. Ryan met with business and education leaders, entrepreneurs and young professionals AND did some cycling, walking and driving around. Well, I would expect so. Her analysis resulted in recommending the we create more "stroll districts" like pedestrian-friendly Chevy Chase. News Flash, there are some of us who have been saying that for several years, yet even the former councilperson from that district admits that the patrons of the area don't want to park and walk more the a half of a block to the stores. Granted it is pedestrian friendly, but the people don't want to walk? Making places more walkable also meas bringing the nodes of congregation closer together be they shopping, recreation or other and then giving reasons for people to go there.

Constructing buildings on "a human scale" does not only mean eschewing the development of high rises, but creating places of meeting at "human" distances from each other. High rises have their place and that is usually in the center of the largest concentration of development. As for the one-way street conversions, are we not already moving in that direction?

Ms. Ryan also is said to believe that Lexington is "wrestling with an inferiority complex", but folks I know think that we are actually having a superiority complex. There are those who feel that we don't do certain things because "we are better than that" or "we are beyond that kind of thinking". I hate to tell her, but trash talking goes on in all kinds of games and it is the ones who can back it up that end up winners. In Lexington, talking like you have game is better than worrying about if you have game. Those who really do have game actually will leave those "naysayers" behind. I see a majority of those "naysayers" as being a newer crowd trying to get "those who have game"(the ones that can get things done) to play a different style. We see how that worked out for Billy G, don't we?

Lastly, her comments on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games ring of someone with 20/20 hindsight. Or is she giving her reaffirmation of the work that is already in progress, those things that are causing the most controversy these days? Telling the common folk that they are the beneficiaries of the preparations for the WEG means little if there is not a dollar sign attached to it. The WEG will come and go and the little man on the street will see relatively small change in his pocket. The greater the anticipation, the smaller the change.

Her last two admonitions, in my opinion, should both be heeded. The current leadership(those who talk and do the good game) should take the time to teach as they play the game. And those who are coming up(the trash talkers who haven't been able to back it up) should bring their talent and spend some time in the classroom.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thoughts On The Coming Reset

Earlier this month I posted about how I am not ready to face the coming lifestyle of $5+ fuel prices. I don't think that the rest of us are either. Wendy Waters of All About Cities then had this giving two scenarios possible for cities in the event of nearly $8 gas.

Wendy starts off with this interesting question.
Will the city be able to offer the housing, transportation options or amenities that its residents may prefer if fuel becomes a more expensive item relative to the family budget?
My question is "Will the city be able to provide enough housing or transportation that the population needs in the event of such a situation?". Will there be the expected new technologies and will they come with their own set of inherent problems, some of which will become evident as we get down the road(so to speak)?

I have started to become concerned that way too many of us have decided to live well beyond the reasonable commuting distance of the future. That and we have not put into place any good alternatives to the primary chosen mode of transportation, the automobile. Somehow , we have let ourselves be persuaded to separate ourselves from our sources of income by time and distance to the extent that now, reducing that gap may bring societal upheaval. The farther the distance the greater the possible upheaval.

Commerce has always followed the population, but in recent years, with the growth of "big box" mega-stores, the interval between commercial nodes has become bigger and the possibility of walking is nearing remote. This may be attributed to zoning as well as population growth. The original concept of zoning was to separate noxious uses from residential areas, but as we became accustomed to the idea, our definitions of what to separate became more and more strict. We are now nearly to the point of having walls between single-family and duplexes or townhouses.

In any case, the budget battle between housing costs and transportation costs, our two largest monthly outlays, will have to waged , much to the chagrin of the majority of our populace.

Suppose the Wendy's second scenario is what comes to be, how will we fare here in Lexington, Ky.? We will not have time to change all of our cars to burn alternate fuels, nor will we have the luxury of installing a meaningful mass transit system. Despite all the warnings and lead time(the gas crisis of the '70s) and the examples of the Europeans and Japanese, we have mostly believed that it just can't happen here. Will the re-purposing of our subdivisions work their way out in ripples of waves or from the outer edges in in a flood of more urban style development around our major roadway intersections? At that point, will those intersections become the new "civic centers" for the provision of necessary government services, the schools, the post office, the light rail station, much like the old corner store but on a larger scale?

I don't have any of these answers and Wendy, as well as I, is willing to hear your thought on this matter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lost Lexington Subdivisions 1

Tonight, I am posting an article that I have been holding for a while. It demonstrates the ongoing situation around the UK campus

When I started this blog , I intended to recount some of the histories of various subdivisions and neighborhoods and over the past months I have been distracted by other development related topics. Today I wish to get back to one of my original topics, one which I will call Lost Lexington Subdivisions. These are platted areas or subdivisions which have been swallowed up by other institutions or public works projects and very little or no vestiges of the original area can be recognized. One of the first of these is an area I encountered as a ten or eleven year old visiting friends from school, Clifton Heights.

The beginnings of Clifton Heights predate me by a considerable margin. Consider this newspaper snippet below:
"Clifton Heights"
Lexington will have another boom on hand within a few days. A land company has been incorporated under the title of the Clifton Heights Land Company, and has purchased one hundred and six acres of land near the suburbs of the city and fronting on Rose Street.
Lexington Leader March, 5 1890
Right beside this was an advertisement of the incorporation of the development company and signed by the corporation president, Louis Straus. Straus was a well known businessman and civic leader, who with his brother Gus, had operated a clothing and tailoring business since the mid 1860’s. The land was belonged to Oliver P. Alford, a local horseman, a brother of R.F. Alford (a member of Morgan’s raiders) and uncle to Mitchell C. Alford, the Lieutenant Governor. O.P. and M.C. Alford were also incorporators. The rest of the incorporation signers were J.E. Keller, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Realtor (moved to Louisville in 1891), C.F. Simonds, owner of the Phoenix Hotel until he sold it to his son John, Watts Parker, an attorney who at times was City Attorney, Master Commissioner, County Judge, and Circuit Judge, and Charles Seelbach of the Louisville hotel family. About 2 weeks later the Lexington Leader had this to say
"In a flurry"
…Although but a short time has elapsed since the Clifton Heights Company made their large purchase of suburban property, there are many persons who want lots in that subdivision. …In the first place Rose Street will be widened ten feet from Maxwell Street to the intersection of the Nicholasville Pike. In the next place the first avenue, running parallel with Maxwell Street, will be one hundred feet wide
Lexington Leader March, 23 1890
The above appears to describe the Aylesford development more than the Clifton area in its reference to a street “one hundred feet wide”. That better describes Euclid Ave. than any other street paralleling Maxwell. Even so, there are not lots being platted or built upon at this time only desire and great interest in the subdivision as this excerpt from more than two years later shows:
Clifton Heights is to be the scene of extensive improvements. Brick and macadam streets are to be put down and handsome houses are to be erected this fall.
Lexington Leader August, 21 1892
These were heady days in the America of the 1890’s. Prosperity was around every corner or so the political leaders claimed, even though 1% of the people controlled more than the other 99%. There was a bump in the road coming called the Panic of 1893.
The 1880s had seen a period of remarkable economic expansion in the United States. In time, the expansion became driven by speculation, much like the "tech bubble" of the late 1990s, except that the preferred industry was railroads. Railroads were vastly over-built, and many companies tried to take over many others, seriously endangering their own stability so to do.... As concern of the state of the economy worsened, people rushed and caused bank runs. The credit crunch rippled through the economy.
Louis Straus took ill in 1898 and as his illness wore on the prospects of the new subdivision diminished with his health. The Clifton Heights lots were advertised for auction and sold in May of 1899 and the newspaper had this to say.
"To build at once"
The purchasers of lots in Clifton Heights have already commenced arrangements to build and today witnessed several loads of lumber and other building material hauled out there. Mr. J. W. Hendricks, the well known contractor and builder, was the first to begin work. He will put up a pretty cottage and others will follow suit at once.
Lexington Leader May, 16 1899
Clifton Heights was set, as its name implies, up the hill of Rose St. from Euclid Ave. and had a fine view of the campus of the State College of Kentucky and its agricultural farm. The first plat was recorded in May of 1899 and encompassed 45 acres or so bounded on the west by Rose St., the east by Woodland Av., the south by the Ag farm and the north by the un-platted portion of the former Alford farm (soon to be the Aylesford Subdivision). Three interior streets and a network of alleyways served the 130 parcels so that no lot required a break in the curb to access the property. Roughly half of the development was in the City proper which in that day was described by a circle, I mile in radius, centered on the county court house.

The property had two bodies of water just outside the City limit which may have been natural and, strangely located at just about the highest point for several hundred feet around. These water bodies became features of the primary residential street which bore the name of the development, Clifton Ave. Seventy seven of the 130 lots faced or had a good view of these ponds and were most likely the prime lots of the entire subdivision. Clifton Ave ran east from Rose to Woodland and paralleled the other residential street, Columbia Ave. Connecting these two main avenues and proceeding north from the larger of the ponds, across Columbia and then toward the Alford property was Linden Ave.

Approximately 5 years later, when the Aylesford subdivision was platted, there was no connection to the existing Linden Ave. and any hope of extension was dashed by naming the only possible candidate, for the new subdivision. To be fair, it can be said that there is a steep incline and the existence of a considerable stream along the property line dividing the two developments. Due to this disconnect the name of Linden Ave was changed to Pennsylvania Ave. sometime after 1904.

As noted before, alleyways served all lots from the rear. Two of these alleys ran adjacent to the north and south property lines and , in the case of the northern one, proved to be less than successful in that it was parallel to the creek and along the toe of the hill making it quite inefficient for lot access. I believe that for this reason, portions of 17 of the 22 lots on the north side of Columbia making use (or trying to) of this alley were further subdivided into Dixie Court, in 1923, (see image at left) and Pennsylvania Court sometime later. Dixie Ct. plat labels this alley as “unused”.

The 1907 Sanborn Insurance map shows that 8 houses had been built on the north side of Columbia while more than 2/3s of the south side built up and a clear majority of all lots on Clifton occupied with housing. Commercial uses are also creeping into the area to serve the residents. The 1934 version shows some lot consolidations and all but a few built out with no increase in commercial intrusion, still the lots on the north of Columbia Ave show little use and further aides their need to re-subdivide.

It is not surprising that the owners of homes in Clifton Heights soon began to let rooms to college students who had come to Lexington to go to school. In 1902, one such student unfortunately died of undisclosed causes at the home of J.H. Hendricks of 432 Clifton Ave. The State College had been admitting women since 1880, but there were no dormitories for women at the time. J.H. Hendricks was the father of John W. and Thomas A. Hendricks, two well known contractors, noted for building both the Union Station downtown and the Queen & Crescent station on S. Broadway. J.H. and his wife Bettie were in their 70’s and would have been prime candidates for housing out of town co-eds.

In the early years the residents of Clifton Heights probably mirrored any other new subdivision, with the up and coming and the regular working class families. Some were inventive, such as Robert C. Hall , who was granted a patent on a fibre breaking machine, and Peter Geiser, who installed at State College one of the Geiser combination smoke consumers, which he invented and patented, By 1912, Geiser claimed more than half a dozen patents to his name. There were the well known and the little known, the entrepreneurs and the salesmen, the academic and the manual laborers all mixed in the residential structure of the area.

I noted before about the ponds, or as some called them “lakes”, it appears that someone did not take kindly to the beauty of the water features and in the early hours of a May weekend of 1906 some person, or persons, used dynamite and shovels to cut a number of trenches through the embankment, thus permitting the body of water to escape until there is not enough left to dignify it with even the name of a pond. We do know that the damage was repaired from later press reports and it was not until 1947 that it was finally drained for good. The year 1913 had many comments about the ponds, or at least the larger one, as February brought very cold weather and the ice skating was said to be the best in town. March of that year a reflective piece about the hidden beauty of the pond that would be the memories of a future time, was printed by the Lexington Leader. And October, the news brought a tale of what has been a State College (and then University ) staple for decades, the tug of war contest over the pond.
At the close of a three minutes struggle, the doughty Sophomores of State University overpowered the Freshmen students Tuesday afternoon, drawing many of the lower classmen and the large steel cable through the Clifton Heights pond. Many of the Freshies who were not pulled through the water bravely plunged in the cold water and swam safely to the opposite shore.
Lexington Leader October, 15 1913
Even after the pond was drained the University students, especially the fraternities and sororities had “mud bowl” flag football games and tug o wars in the grassy field that was the bottom of the pond.

Along with people, services came to the new subdivision. In July 1907 a new florist shop was announced and September brought the establishment of a branch of the Library in someone’s home and just two weeks later a second location in another’s home. Clearly the residents wished to be well read. I did find one curious news excerpt from 1908;
"New park"
Mayor Skain and Superintendent W. M. Bateman drove out to Clifton Heights, on South Rose Street, Monday morning, to take a look at that section of the city and consider its capabilities for a driving park. The result of their inspection was that they came away thoroughly convinced that Clifton Heights will make a fine resort for those who go driving.
Lexington Leader June, 16, 1908
I am unaware of just what a “driving park” is, or of what it consists, but I do feel that in the early years of the automotive age, when few families could possess an automobile, it may have had more to do with horses and carriages than autos.

Other services were being requested by the residents, an extension of the streetcar line from its southeastern most point, at Maxwell and Woodland, southward to serve Aylesford, Clifton Heights and the Chautauqua Woods/Columbia Heights areas. Over one hundred residents met to discuss and request this service but the extension was never done. The mayor did propose and recommend some improvements as shown here;
Plans for extensive street improvements in the Clifton addition, beyond Aylesford, were discussed and ordered advertised for by the Board of Public Works upon the recommendation of Mayor Skain Tuesday morning. These include new streets, sidewalks and sewers out Woodland to Columbia Avenue, along Columbia Avenue to Rose street and down Rose to Euclid avenue in Aylesford.
Lexington Leader September, 14 1909
This may have meant the repaving of the streets and sidewalks or the paving for the first time, as referenced here.
"'Worst street'"
As the result of a message from residents of Columbia avenue, requesting that their street be taken into consideration as being among those most thickly laden with mud and the least improved, an inspection visit was made Saturday afternoon by a Leader representative.
Lexington Leader March, 3 1907
I don’t know.

Recreational services for the children were promised in 1916 and land deeded to the City in the summer that included the Clifton Pond. A playground opened in 1919, in the depression created by draining the smaller pond, with some fanfare. Two years later a 14 year-old local youth drown in the pond and it appears that there was some effort to close the park, since a petition of the neighbors was circulated an given to the City. The park stayed open. In August of 1930 the park played host to a circus, arranged by the Lexington Civic League, as the big event to close out their final week of operating the playgrounds in the city. It was well attended as approximately 6,000 people were estimated to be there and, as with any circus, there was a parade through town.

Clifton Heights figured in the controversy of being annexed into the City in that not all of the property was originally included, as detailed above. Below we see how it affected the area.
City limits extension bill goes into effect June 13th, extending limits of Lexington ½ mile in each direction.
Lexington Herald March, 13 1906
The residents of Woodland, Chautauqua Woods, Columbia Heights, Clifton Heights and some other smaller subdivisions found themselves in danger of being annexed into a city, in which they had no say as to representation. Woodland was the most vocal as they had the greater number of wealthy, influential inhabitants and they explored the idea of creating their own city government.
"Initial steps taken"
Resident of that portion of Woodland, beyond the city limits who have had under consideration the advisability of organizing a new township of the sixth class for the purpose of avoiding annexation to the city of Lexington, in accordance with the city extension bill, recently passed by the Legislature, mention of which was made in Sunday's Leader, held a meeting Tuesday night at which decided action was taken toward carrying out the proposed project.
Lexington Leader March, 14 1906
Due to their population they would have been a city of the sixth class but the area would be booming in the next few years. Chautauqua Woods, with its smaller, denser cottage style housing, would be platted and built in the next three years. Columbia Heights, Current Addition, L. B. Shouse Addition and others in the few years after that.
Taxation without representation"
Taxation without Representation. That is the trick sought to be turned by those who are shuffling the political cards at the expense of the thousands of good citizens who live and own property in the suburbs that are to be annexed to Lexington by an extension of the city limits. The Leader has learned from several sources that a scheme is on foot to postpone the extension of the city limits until after Tuesday November 6, next, when it is proposed to nominate State and municipal officers on the same day as the Congressional election, in which event all of the residents of the section to be annexed will be shut out of the city primary election . . .
Lexington Leader May, 27 1906
City leadership sought to increase revenue while denying responsibility at the ballot box to a large population of influential citizens.
"Official survey"
By the middle of next week the official survey of the Woodland district will be complete and an ordinance providing for its annexation to the city of Lexington, as an integral part of the municipal corporation will be introduced before the General Council at the first regular meeting in July. Matters in connection with the first step towards territorial extension, that expansion which is hoped will induce the "Greater Lexington" so universally sought, have reached that stage where decisive action is in sight.
Lexington Leader June, 24 1906
The surveys progressed through the next weeks with negotiations and lawsuits (Pepper Distillery on Versailles Rd) to the point that the expansion was not a true ½ mile in all directions but an irregular shape. I have not found a map of the exact annexation yet though I am still looking. By the end of August the deed had been done and in the words of the Commissioners, a greater Lexington accomplished.
"'Greater Lexington'"
"Greater Lexington" is now a fact. When the residents of the outlying districts awakened from their slumbers Friday morning they were full-fledged citizens of the city of Lexington for all purposes under the law. Retiring Thursday night they went in sleep in Fayette county, but awakened in the city of Lexington, in that the General Council met Thursday night in special session and by unanimous vote adopted the annexation ordinance.
Lexington Leader August, 31 1906
Then the troubles began. The easy part was finished and the hard part lay ahead
"Hogs must be removed"
One of the unpleasant circumstances attending the extension of the city limits by the recent annexation ordinance is that many of those brought in will be compelled to abandon the custom of keeping hogs on their premises. To carry out this rule, Dr. Simmons, the health officer, served notice upon two of the new residents Saturday, that they will not be permitted to keep hogs in the city limits at any time, a practice to which they have long been accustomed and were following when the limits were extended. As a result, they must now immediate sale, or by removal to the country beyond the half-mile limit.
Lexington Leader September, 2 1906
"Extended limits"
The recent extension of the city limits has brought a world of trouble, worry, doubt and confusion to some of the city officials, but so much to the City Assessor and the principals of the several schools, that each of them is demanding block maps showing the annexed territory.
Lexington Leader September, 4 1906

"Suburban districts"
Unless Mayor Combs and the General Council come to the rescue and order a sufficient appropriation for putting up street signs and house numbers in Arlington Heights, Columbia Heights, Forest Hill and Herr Park addition, which are included in the territory recently added to the city by the annexation ordinance, these residence suburbs are likely to lose the free delivery service which Uncle Sam has generously provided for them. By order of the postal department two new carriers were, beginning September 1, added to the free delivery department and assigned to these districts, greatly to the delight to the citizens of these outlying residence sections who for some time have been clamoring for free delivery.
Lexington Leader September, 9 1906

"Mrs. Faulconer's home cut out of the city"
The Joint Ways and Means Committee of the General Council, and Joint Improvement committee, met Wednesday night in the office of the Mayor. One of the matters coming before the Ways and Means Committee was the effect of the annexation ordinance upon Mrs. Nannie G. Faulconer, superintendent of County Schools. Under the law she is required to maintain her residence in the county, and at the time of her nomination, election and qualification, she was a resident of the county. The recent annexation ordinance brought her home within the corporate limits of the city and special provisions were necessary in her case.
Lexington Leader September, 13 1906

"Complex problems"
Some rather serious complications have arisen in regard to the recent annexation of new territory to the City of Lexington, the principal among which are the acquisition of common school property and the necessity of changes being made in the location of certain voting places in the county precincts affected by the change.
Lexington Leader September, 16 1906

"Voting status obscure"
Are the three thousand voters residing in the newly annexed territory to the city of Lexington to be denied the right or privilege of participation in the next city Democratic primary, or, in other words to be disfranchised to that extent? is a question even the county authorities seem unable to answer.
Lexington Leader September, 30 1906

"Express company"
People who live in the recently annexed territory of the city may protest in vain against the refusal of the express companies to deliver their parcels free of charge. As a result of their refusal to deliver parcels free during the Christmas rush, many of the citizens of the newest portions of Lexington entered a vigorous kick with Mayor Combs on the grounds that they were no longer "out of the city," and requested His Honor to ascertain why they did not have as much right to free delivery of express as any one else in town.

Lexington Leader January, 14 1907

"Will resist taxation"
Since the holding of the County Democratic Convention Saturday has developed the fact that residents of the newly annexed territory of the city are in Sixty-first (county of Fayette) instead of the Sixty-second (city of Lexington) legislative district, and as such are not entitled to have a voice in the election of representatives from this city, they will resist the collection of the city taxes this year.
Lexington Leader June, 9 1908
Everything from “You can’t keep your animals”, “We don’t know where you are”, “We can’t deliver to you for free”, “You can’t keep your job and live where you do” and ”You can’t vote”, all the way to “We won’t pay any taxes”. All of these would seem to be quickly solved but the voting one. It wasn’t that they weren’t allow to vote, it was just in which district and for whom. The City could move a municipal boundary, but the State legislature would have to wait for the 1910 Census results to apportion their new State district lines. The residents could vote, but they could not vote for the City candidate , they would have to vote for the county representative even though they lived in the City.

Eventually it all worked out and the City slowly set in place a procedure for annexing newer developed areas into the corporate boundary and by tweaking and trying, the process lasted until merger.

The growing pains out of the way, Clifton Heights settled into a period stability. People moved out and people moved in. Slowly, almost inexorably, the University moved into and started to take over the quiet little area. First the sororities bought the little frame houses facing Rose St, then along Columbia, and with a church sandwiched in, created a “greek” enclave which the guys matched on campus, on the south side of Clifton and the lots facing on Woodland Ave.. Between 1950 and 1956 they had taken roughly 1/5 of the original Clifton Heights plat for college related uses.

The University took over some of the housing that had been built along Pennsylvania Avenue and two other sororities joined in on Columbia Ave. Then the Baptist Student Center came along and the future of Columbia Ave was sealed. Meanwhile the University took the south side, set the Faculty Club on the corner and just kept adding parking. The Mines and Minerals Building connected the Faculty Club to the structured parking and phone center and the roadway of Clifton Ave had to go.

In 1992, the University announced that they were going to build a new library, hired a design firm, then settled on a location. Right in the middle of Clifton Heights. Right in the middle of the two former ponds. The design called for acquiring the rest of the block. Eminent domain and State money meant that there was no hope, although some fought it, but they soon gave up. The building occupied by the University Church of Christ, built in 1952, was swapped for a new building on Columbia and all that was left, was a few frame houses.

Those houses on Pennsylvania Ct and one, lone, two story on Woodland Ave look like they won’t last much longer. The University surrounds these houses and has bought up about half of the blocks between Rose La. and Euclid, so it won’t be long.

So there we have it, 100 years, one century from farmland to redevelopment, one subdivision come and gone, and this is not the only one.

As this series continues, I hope that it evolves into something useful.

Recent News To Use

There have been a couple of recent news bits that relate to my posts of the last few days.

One came from a blog on Daily Fuel Economy Tips where they linked to a study report on GPS and the reduction of one's carbon footprint. The study was funded by NAVTEQ, a major producer of software and data for hand held GPS devices. The following comes from their press release:
NAVTEQ, the leading global provider of digital map, traffic and location data for in-vehicle, portable, wireless and enterprise solutions, has revealed further insights from a proprietary research study designed to assess the consumer impact of everyday use of navigation devices. These findings focus specifically on the impact that the addition of real-time traffic has on the driver experience, and point to the use of traffic information as a primary influencer in time savings for the average driver.
The key word here is proprietary research. I have seen way too many studies where the results come out very much on favor toward the products of the funding entity. This also appears to be a targeted study in that the focus is on the addition of real-time traffic information which this provider will supply, for a fee.

Then there is the matter of the participants in the study and the conditions of their commutes. Again from the press release:
The results are from a three pronged study conducted in two metropolitan areas of Germany – Dusseldorf and Munich -- which evaluated drivers without a navigation system, drivers with a navigation system, and drivers with a navigation system that included real-time traffic. Previous studies in this field focused more on “getting lost” scenarios versus the benefits to drivers of navigation system use during the course of their normal driving habits.
Those being studied were European and from modern German cities(having been rebuilt after the Second World War), hardly the equivalent to most American cities. I have no doubt that there are those who find it necessary to use a navigation system to travel in Europe, but for regular commutes I would think that European neighborhoods have a much higher connectivity ratio than America.
The study results reflect more than 2,100 individual trips, more than 20,000 kilometers and almost 500 hours on the road.
This works out to an average 2+ hours a commute trip. If you are traveling more than 2 hours to get to your job and driving, you're doing it wrong. That's like living in Lexington and working in Louisville, Cincinnati or Ashland and making the trip both ways every day. You have got to be nuts.

Now, here comes the kicker. This was a short study. How short I don't know, but the release states "If applied over the course of a year, a driver who does not currently use a navigation device would save themselves 4 days of driving each year if they had a traffic-enabled navigation system." Is saving four days worth of driving spread out over a year's time worth the added expense of a new GPS device AND the monthly cost of the real-time traffic updates " case of emergency". Then these results were extrapolated to fit the American driving experiences and, voila, the results are oddly similar.

The average driver was estimated to reduce their CO2 emissions by 21%, yet they could do much better than that by using the efficient European rail systems. American are not so lucky, but being better informed about alternative traffic route and a better connectivity of roads would go a long way.

The other has been the announcement concerning the 21c Museum Hotel and its connection with the Gray Construction Co. of here in town. Most articles like to make the contrast of the situation with CentrePointe the focal point and make sure that they mention that such a thing could have been accomplished here. I have seen many episodes of what some called grandstanding when the Vice Mayor has chastised the Webb Co for not doing, in his opinion, a better job.

A quick perusal of the Gray website give a display of their projects around the country and most of them seem to me to be just as generic and bland as what their CEO is complaining about. The Gray Construction arm here in Lexington, actually Versailles, has done a few projects but nothing to scream about. And their on-line newsletter has done some nice pieces about new and innovative methods of the "green technologies", yet I have not heard of any local projects in which these methods could be used as a demonstration of the progress available in Lexington.

Jim Gray has received accolades related to planning and construction from prestigious places and cities around the country and the world, yet we hear nothing of how his expertise is being used in his adopted "hometown"(he is originally from Glasgow, Ky.).

Maybe something else will come along tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Life Of Illusion

To a large number of Lexingtonian's, image is everything, from the self-claimed title of "Horse Capitol of the World" to how we perceive our downtown to be. Lexington residents treasure image over actions, illusion over substance and appearance over meaningfulness every day. It shows on a daily basis, from the cars that we drive to the places that we lay our heads to sleep.

To the casual observer, the phrase "Horse Capitol of the World" would indicate that a large portion of the residents deal with horses. The horse industry is a factor in the local economy, but I would venture to guess that most folks in Lexington have little or no interaction with horses other than a few simple bets or boxing the Exacta a few weeks a year. I dare say that less than 1 in 5 residents have been on a horse more than a handful of times in their lives.

The highlight of many Fall and Winter weekends is the fashionably late arrival to and the slow procession down the aisles of the UK football and basketball games, followed by the early escape prior to halftime and the and of the game. Really this was a much better show when UK was a much more mediocre team. Then there are the after the races/before the game dinners/after the game celebrations at the name clubs and restaurants in Lansdowne or Hamburg. Coach Billy G would hang out there even when he wasn't winning.

And then there are the places that we live and the how we get to where we have to be. The many gated or semi-gated communities(not so much for the security, but for the prestige) and the estate lot developments that peer out with disdain to those lesser subdivisions with their "cheek by jowl" houses and their standard street cross-sections. Some of our more elite neighborhoods have streets so narrow that you can't get two SUV's to pass if there are cars parked on the street, and all the autos may not fit in the garage and driveway. I sometimes cannot believe all the luxury SUV's that traverse our roadways, in addition to the standard SUV's and vans and the plethora of pick-up trucks. The sheer number of 4x4's around and the rarity of them ever being off-road, is staggering.

This is not to say that all Lexington residents can live like this, I certainly can't, but the small percentage that do--have an influence on all of us who don't. The educational and cultural systems constantly reinforce that anyone can attain whatever they can dream of, and if that were true, then the percentage of those having all those "good" things would be increasing.

Those who act in the manner written of above, do so because they can afford it and certainly NOT because it is the right thing to do. They won't ride to work with the masses nor will they blend in with the other on the road if they can prevent it. Rank does have its privileges.

I see from this morning news, that Lexington is rated #6 in the US as a place to raise our kids. So says the publication Children's Health. And on the other hand, Kentucky is listed as #1 in the abuse and neglect of our children. One of these is right and the other is illusion. Which is more likely to be shown in the Visitors and Tourism guides. The recent Affordable Housing Study says that we need to densify and diversify our residential areas, especially within New Circle Rd, yet the landlord around UK who are trying to do so are destroying the neighborhoods(granted they are doing it on the cheap and dirty). Some think that UK should be doing more for the students, but that would remove the free market values and be done in the exact same areas by a de facto arm of the government.

This is but a sampling of the illusory life that is Lexington, Ky.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Growing Footprint

I have been a little pre-occupied this past week thinking about things other than this blog. Maybe, tonight I can get back to what is going on here.

I saw over on Steve Austin's Bluegrass reVISIONS that we have five years before our carbon emissions should peak or we have reached the tipping point of our slide into doom. Well maybe not that bad, but we need to adjust our lifestyles to make less of a carbon footprint than we do.

He states that Put simply, this means either that we must rapidly scale up renewables or we must reduce economic activity. I wonder if that could not say that we rapidly scale up AND modify our economic activity so as to achieve the same gain from alternative sources. I am not sure that it has to be an either/or situation.

Steve does ask what this means for Lexington, but he seems to be the only one asking out loud. Since the end of May 2008 the people of Lexington have thought about a lot of thing that they could be doing, but none of them concerned our carbon footprint. Football, basketball, horse racing, whether or not a new energy efficient building should be built downtown, downtown traffic patterns of one-way vs two-way, these all made the list, but not "can I live closer to my job?" or can I find an alternate mode to get to work?". These thoughts maybe made the fleeting moment list and were quickly dismissed as Lexington does not do this kind of thing.

Some thoughts that should have been making the rounds are:
  • Do I need the fenced in yard that I hate to take care of every weekend of the summer and fall?
  • Do I need to run the HVAC all year round just because the house/apartment is designed to prevent flow through air ventilation?
  • If the bus(or other transit mode) came by my house would I take it on a regular basis?
  • If the grocery was closer to my house would I need such a big refrigerator to store things , or such a big car to haul them or would I need to buy so much in one trip?
  • Would my carbon footprint be smaller if I put more of my own on the ground?
On a city-wide level, has there been any discussion of what we can or should do to encourage people to modify their lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint? In terms of meaningful discussions, I would have to say NO and in many instances the city leaders actions have done exactly the opposite. The government, on a regular basis, encourages those living in the outer reaches of the urban sprawl to boost the idea of downtown living by adding to the carbon footprint and coming downtown on the off traffic days. The Farmers Market, the weekend festivals throughout the year, the Second Sunday events to promote a cleaner healthier lifestyle, these all add to the overall carbon footprint, not take away from it.

Don't get me wrong, I think that all of these activities are worthwhile, but in places that make ecological sense more than economic sense. I can remember when some of the city's biggest events started out as neighborhood style happenings. The Shakespeare plays were held originally in the grassy field of Bell Court, until it grew too big and moved to Woodland Park. Now it NEEDS the setting of the Arboretum and the associated parking spaces to make a profit. What future does this bode for the new amphitheater in Beaumont Centre? Does this mean that there should be more of these play productions in more neighborhood settings?

I have already posted about the Second Sunday events and the city has responded with monthly escorted bike rides in various sectors of the city, but these all will originate downtown where the participants will have to drive with their bikes, to ride out to the suburbs and return to their cars to take their bikes home. Would it not make more sense to start where the people ARE and go to where some other people ARE and return, then next time start at the previous destination and go the where other people ARE, working your way around the suburban rings of Lexington? There is NO NEED to increase the pollution on an off traffic day all for the name of clean living and exercise.

Has the city encouraged the owners of our downtown buildings to install some type of passive solar collectors on their roofs, or cylindrical wind generators on the upper floors of our high rise structures in an effort to lessen their use of carbon generated electricity. I know that the upper floors of modern building are designed to handle the unseen air movements of the urban climate and that there are several natural wind tunnel like area in the downtown area. Has the city, with its power of granting zoning and development opportunities, sent a clear suggestion of its intent to combat our negative carbon footprint image with some of the proven methods of urban design? Quite the opposite, up until the bursting of the housing bubble, our Urban County Council has continued to send the signal that the current "status quo" will still work in Lexington.

That is about enough for tonight. Maybe we will have more to think about tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lexington's Air Travel Future

Last week, the Brookings Institution issued a report on air travel trends in America. Its general conclusion is that you can expect delays... more delays than you already have. Anybody that travels by commercial air these days will understand this.

The traveling public has grown used to the idea of speed and convenience of air travel since the first flights of the 20th century. The Interstate System came along in the latter half of the century which made it easier to travel those shorter distances, roughly 80-120 miles, in about the same time as scheduled air service and relegating some of the smaller airfields into non-players. Post 9/11 the TSA and other security changes have made air travel an even more time consuming endeavor.

The airline industry has, since deregulation, focused more and more flights into their central hubs and let regional carriers do the bulk of the short haul flights in the US. These centralized hubs have allowed smaller airlines to spring up, but the also have given the control of the air routes to the major companies.
Nearly 99 percent of all U.S. air passengers arrive or depart from one of the 100 largest metropolitan areas, with the vast majority of travel concentrated in 26 metropolitan-wide hubs.
These 100 metropolitan areas do not include Lexington, nor most points south and east until you get closer to Atlanta and the 26 hubs are usually located in the mega-regions that are forming the basis of American life under the present economy. How that economy will change in the coming reset will bear a careful watching.
Half of the country’s flights are routes of less than 500 miles
The really amazing thing here is that these flights only carried 30% of the total airline passengers in the past 12 months. It is highly likely that these flights are being flown from smaller airfields into a central hub and back out to a mid-sized airfield, both of whose communities could be reached by Interstate but being of sufficient distance as to create difficulty in driving in a days time.
Within the 26 domestic hubs, six experienced worse-than-average delays for both arrivals and departures: New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, and San Francisco.
The projected growth of our mega-regions would only assure that these delays will only get worse. It is assumed that the current recession has caused the reduction in the number of flights and its resultant improvement of on-time performance statistics. Likewise, it is also assumed that the travelers will return upon the rebound of the economy. Neither of these assumptions should be considered likely given the predicted economic reset and the uncertain length of our current economic status.

I would find it as no surprise that the inventive spirit that evidenced itself after the recession of the 1890s(the automobile and the airplane) would not again come forth and give us new methods of getting things done in the world. A paradigm shift of the magnitude of the pendulum swinging in the other direction is not out of the question.

Lexington does not seem to be prepared for anything other that the pendulum continuing to swing farther in its current direction and yet our momentum has slowed. Where do we go from here?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Second Sunday Is Coming

This Sunday is the second attempt for Lexington to pull off a Second Sunday "event". I have spoken about this before and I won't bother you with it again, but suffice it to say that I don't like how Lexington is going to pull this off.

I was looking at the list of sponsoring agencies and realized that Lextran is not listed in any way. For an event that takes place in a central location and needs parking spaces for patrons so that they can attend, the absence of Lextran as a way to avoid the parking woes really mystifies me. So I asked a planner for the MPO, who deals with Lextran and their future efforts, if they were involved in the past years planning meetings.

I can say that, from the course of the conversation, Lextran is usually brought in as an after thought... if then. I did learn that earlier this the Director of Lextran was call to a hastily arranged meeting of city officials because of a claustrophobia of circumstances surrounding the number of events occurring downtown this weekend. That is about as last minute as you can get.

I have written before about how I believe that Lextran is reactive agency and does not move to get ahead of the need for their services. If Lexington is going to plan for TOD(Transit Oriented Development) then the transportation needs to be planned for before the development gets started, not after. If Lexington is going to be prepared for the "Great Reset" then Lextran has to be involved in the early planning, not to see if they will "go along" with the decisions that someone else has made.

I don't think that Lexington is really going to implement any kind of meaningful mass transit. Nor does their transportation planning extend beyond catering to us on the "lunatic fringe". The LA Times wrote the other day that a larger and larger number of Generation Y'ers are foregoing the auto and getting around town by other means. If they recognize the trend there, then it will not take that long to get here, the quote the things always happen 20 years late in Kentucky may have been true at one time, but I think that it takes less time now.

Lexington has made some big strides in the provision of bike trails and paths in the past few years. thanks to Kenzie Gleason and her BPAC group, but that is just a small piece of the pie. Even the expansion of Second Sunday to a monthly schedule, in the manner in which they intend, with escorted bike rides, once again from the city center, lacks the involvement of the neighborhoods from which the participants will venture forth. I still believe that with 12 council districts and 12 calendar months, a Second Sunday street closure could be held all around Lexington for the next year. Real success would be when it is held in all districts on a monthly basis.

So far Kentucky's Second Sunday history has required a massive PR push and from what I've read, the original in Bogota, Columbia just sort of... ... happened.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Are You Prepared? I Know I'm Not

Today's good read comes from the fine folks at the UK Energy Research Council. The ones in the original UK, the United Kingdom, not the guys at our University who are researching the removal of mountains for the molehill of energy. This council is looking at the depletion of the global oil supply and its effect on the world as we know it.

What does that have to do with us, we are Americans and Americans have always had all the oil they wanted. When we run low we will just go find more, we always have.

The following quotes (in red) are from the executive summary:
Abundant supplies of cheap liquid fuels form the foundation of modern industrial economies and at present the vast majority of these fuels are obtained from ‘conventional’ oil. But a growing number of commentators are forecasting a near-term peak and subsequent terminal decline in the production of conventional oil as a result of the physical depletion of the resource.
These modern global economies will only work if the supply of cheap liquid fuels continues to grow since there will be more of the "global" community desiring to cash in on the "global" economy. From what I see here the first thing that is growing is the number of people realizing that the oil supply is not growing. We are Americans, we created this economy and we can control it.
Many believe that this could lead to substantial economic dislocation...
Well, we as the world leaders will just have to help the rest of the world when this dislocation hits them. Besides I've heard that the oil that we know about will last into the middle of this century.
Despite much popular attention, the growing debate on ‘peak oil’ has had relatively little influence on energy and climate policy. Most governments exhibit little concern about oil depletion...
Lexington's government has not made any formal statements about their concerns toward "peak oil". They are quite vocal about preparing for the WEG, or some terrorist possibilities, or a natural disaster like a tornado or earthquake. Are they preparing for a catastrophic increase in fuel prices (or even better) a complete lack of supply of fuel for their emergency vehicles? Does Lexington have a "strategic fuel supply" hidden somewhere? My guess is ... NO.
While the global economic recession has brought oil prices down from their record high of July 2008, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is warning of a near-term ‘supply crunch’ owing to the cancellation and delay of many upstream investment projects. There is a growing consensus that the age of cheap oil is coming to an end.
So, if cheap oil is coming to an end, how are you preparing to face the thought of fuel prices that could be double the $4 a gallon that we saw back in 2008? Alternative fueled cars? Will there be enough alternative fuels available? Ethanol, algae, solar bio-diesel? I don't see very much of those ideas here in Lexington. If gas is that pricey, who gets it first? The police? Fire? Lextran? HSR? Airline travel will be curtailed completely because the military will have the jet fuel.

If you live more than 5 miles from your work place, how will you get to work? Honestly, I live just about 3/4 mile(as the crow flies) from a bus stop, but I am no crow. I have a bicycle and I am not as young as I once was, but I could get to work. Groceries could be a problem but we have tried it just to see if we could do it.

We Americans have suffered before and we got through it, besides this is all just speculation.
...the transition away from conventional oil will have important economic, environmental and security implications which need to be anticipated if the appropriate investments are to be made.
This is fairly plain. Regardless of the eventual "peak" of oil production some transition away form our current fuel sources will have to be planned for. The security implications spoken of will also be tantamount, for if wars are being fought over the present oil fields then they will also erupt over any alternative fuel production capabilities. Will intercity passenger rail travel be available before, during or after this transition period starts?
While the timing of a future peak (or plateau) in conventional oil production has been a focus of debate, what appears equally important is the rate at which production may be expected to decline following the peak and hence the rate at which demand reduction and alternative sources of supply may be required. In addition, there are uncertainties over the extent to which the market may be relied upon to signal oil depletion in a sufficiently timely fashion.
With so many uncertainties to be concerned with, it seem that we should be, at least, looking at some sort of planning changes so as to be more prepared for whatever comes our way. It is becoming more clear each day that the situation cannot keep going as it has for the past 80-100 years. Just as the world had to change from the "horse and buggy days" so too will we have to adjust from the world of an oil based global economy. Given the dearth of innovation being put forth on some sort of alternative fuel or power sources it looks like our creative class has its work cut out for it.

The report's listed conclusions are:
1. The mechanisms leading to a ‘peaking’ of conventional oil production are well understood and provide identifiable constraints on its future supply at both the regional and global level.

2. Despite large uncertainties in the available data, sufficient information is available to allow the status and risk of global oil depletion to be adequately assessed.

3. There is potential for improving consensus on important and long-standing controversies such as the source and magnitude of ‘reserves growth’.

4. Methods for estimating resource size and forecasting future supply have important limitations that need to be acknowledged.

5. Large resources of conventional oil may be available, but these are unlikely to be accessed quickly and may make little difference to the timing of the global peak.

6. The risks presented by global oil depletion deserve much more serious attention by the research and policy communities.
I think that these conclusions are proof enough that Lexington and the State of Kentucky need to begin talking about plans to mitigate the effects to their residents, whether we think that we need them or not. Everything should be on the table; mass transit, land use, urban farming, home occupations, greater density, you name it.

Remember, We are Americans and the rest of the world needs us more than we need them.

What might your thoughts be?

By the way there is a local blog on the "Peak Oil" situation in Lexington. I have a link to it in my blog list to the right side of the page. It is not much but you have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Every Day Should Be Walk To School Day

Today was "International Walk to School Day" and this month is "Walk to School Month" and finally both of my little Sweepers can walk to school together. Out the door and into school in ten minutes, fifteen tops. This reminds me of the days of my youth.

I grew up in a different day and time. I started school back when you were expected to walk to school. All of my classmates were doing it so it was not a big thing. I walked across the park and either skirted the ballfield or traipsed right through it, although that was hard to do when the high school band was practicing on those crisp fall mornings. Walking across with a sister who was two years older and later with one two years younger, we were joined by other families of kids on the block. Passing by the old auditorium and crossing the Kentucky/High/Maxwell intersection, then down by the firehouse and the crossing guard. A piece of cake for any elementary school child of the mid 20th century. And I even went home for lunch...alone.

Middle school was a 1 mile bike ride away through Chevy Chase and high school was a five minute walk, cross Main St and enter the front door. At that point I lived closer that those who drove to school could park. To me, every day for 13 years of public education was walk to school day and for the time that I attended the University, I walked there also.

These days some districts have discouraged walking and biking to school and some have outright banned it. The placement of some of our more recent schools have also made it harder for those who live nearby since they are built near intersections of major, multi-laned highways and not centrally located to the residential areas. Only one of Lexington's five high schools is directly on a major road, though the private one are mostly on highly traveled roadways.

Any parent who these days wishes to allow their child to walk to school, or even several blocks to a bus stop may be considered to be a negligent parent by some and a candidate for "child abuser" by others. Is it any wonder that our children don't have any clue as to where they are or how they got there when we shuttle them around everywhere they go. My oldest son was nearly 16 before he would venture more than six blocks on a bike by himself and would ask me "Where should I go?". There is no way that I could trust him out there with a car like that. That is the real child abuse.

The EPA has begun to monitor the air quality around selected schools nationwide and primarily in depressed areas yet all schools should probably be monitored, especially during the morning drop-off and afternoon pick-up periods. The suspected pollutants should be auto exhaust rather than the industrial type. There has already been evidence of harmful effects on pregnant women living near generators of auto exhaust, so how much more harm are we doing to our children?

On a side note, I saw a Twitter entry for the Mayor's Chief of Staff the other day in which she urged everyone to participate in the Second Sunday "event" this weekend and directed those interested to the Government's web site for parking locations. I would have hoped for more of an appeal to use public transportation than to use the private vehicle. Why was Lextran not included in the planning of this "event"?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Who Are You Going To Trust?

It is going to come down to "Who do you trust?"

While checking out my usual reading sources online, I found two headlines that are just miles apart yet both of these "trends" are coming from the west coast. On the one hand is a report from the San Jose area which claims that the nations' seniors will be relocating into more livable, walkable communities in the years ahead.
"We're going to find that there's more demand for urban and town-center housing" for seniors, said John McIlwain, a senior fellow at the Urban Land Institute. "The demand will outpace the supply, which means that will drive up value."

Changing economic times have more architects and developers rethinking designs for retirement housing. Out: isolated, gated senior living communities. In: cities and suburban town centers.

Many senior communities were built with land-grabbing amenities like golf courses, tennis courts and swimming pools, so they had to be built far from the city center. Residents drive miles to the grocery store, movie theater or hospital.

Today, developers and designers want to create more communities in areas where amenities, services and infrastructure already exist. "Walkability" is a key element in urban and town-center housing developments.
This is what I've been waiting to see happen for the past year or so. A community where one can grow up, get married and settle down, raise your own kids, then watch your grand-kids grow up. It can be done, it has been done for centuries, in places all over this globe. These are not the styles of development that we are seeing being built in Lexington today, though other are beginning to see the light.
In Lyndhurst, Ohio, designers want to convert a golf course into independent living housing and continuing care facilities that blend into the surrounding neighborhood. The community will feature townhouses, apartments and houses, next to a hotel and a short walk to shops, offices and a public plaza. A completion date has not been set.

Hodgson, the architect, said, "People want to go back to this kind of neighborhood setting because it's a comfortable community."
Then on the other hand, there are those who suggest that our aging, retiring baby boomers will be living in more rural or exurban type settings. An article from the Portland, Oregon area details the lifestyle of some retiring executive and the desire to get out into the countryside for some real living.
"Any direction out of here -- north, south, east, west -- is absolutely gorgeous mountain country with fabulous streams and lakes," Dick Fisk says. "It's close to everything, and we're not under the kids' feet."

They represent a migration that turns conventional wisdom on its head. Urban planners have until now proceeded on the assumption that retiring baby boomers will downsize to a high-rise and spend their days lapping lattes and taking the streetcar to the art museum.
This reality may, of course, exist for a sector of the baby boomer generation but I'm not sure that there are all that many upper management types who will follow the same or similar path, or for how long they will stay on that path. This may be a delayed mid-life crisis finally realized or a life's dream finally coming to life. data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture says baby boomers will head to the country in big numbers, in the Northwest changing the face of rural Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
So, here we have two differing scenarios. They are moving to the cities and more livable, walkable communities. They are moving to the country for the fresh air and the amenities of the good life. We have the differing viewpoints of respected agencies, one a liberal think tank and the other a Federal Cabinet agency.

My first inclination is to go with the Urban Land Institute(ULI) and their assessment, because I believe that revamping or reinventing our suburbs is a necessary step to making our cities more livable. The ULI may have tendencies toward development companies but those corporations do supply jobs and employment. I would rather the FDA stick to quarantining the quality and wholesomeness of our food supply and not quantifying the lifestyles of anybody who want to live on the land. The FDA is controlled by the large agri-business corporations and not the general population. Monsanto and Cargill are not out for the benefit of the consumer or the farmer, so I am not convinced that their assessment of the population trends of America are on target.

You will have to read both articles, do some other research and ask yourself "Who do you trust?"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Roadways And Traffic Delays

Lexington's traffic is a mess. At least that is what quite a few twitterbugs are saying.

There are a lot of roadway projects being done along a lot of main thoroughfares and all at the same time. But is that at all different from any other city our size. And the comments run the gamut, from this road is a bottleneck to this road widening is a pain... now I'll never be able to get to work. Part of the problem is that so many of Lexington's residents only know of one way to get from where they are to where they want to be. Very few people want to find alternate routes to their most popular destinations. That and nobody want anyone from outside the neighborhood driving through my neighborhood.

The ends of the new Bolivar St(aka.Newtown Pike Extension) being built at W. Main St. and Versailles Rd. respectively are expected to be disrupted for the month of October only. Manchester St/Old Frankfort Pike from Cox to Forbes Rd could be upset for longer if they get their TIF approved. Old Frankfort and Alexandria will be a mess until the first of next year, but the completion will make a grand entrance to the urban area.

And then there is the South Limestone rebuilding project. Rebuilding the antiquated sewer systems(to satisfy the EPA), putting the utilities underground(we are asking for it everywhere else), new consistent, coordinated sidewalks(the college-town concept) and rain gardens in the right of way are an added bonus. This is a much smaller version of the project that made Main and Vine one-way streets back in the early '70s and honestly, I don't remember this much hue and cry about having our two busiest roads upset for so long. Sidewalks downtown were impassable for weeks on end and there were more people and businesses operating there in these days.

I have seen a call for better traffic control(manual control) at the S. Lime/Avenue of Campions intersection during the mid-day congestion period, but from what I've seen(on at least two occasions) there needs to be a curtailment of commercial deliveries during such times. Both the timing of the deliveries and the size of delivery vehicles has a lot to do with the backlog in circulation in this area. Forcing large delivery vehicles into tight urban spaces is not dis-similar to forcing a suburban development model on the downtown street scheme, it is just out of place.

Is there a better way to do all of this roadwork? Maybe. Should we put it off until a better time? Definitely not, it has been put off for too long now. Can we make adjustments to all of our schedules and just try to get through this? By all means. This reminds me of a trip that I took to New England, some 25 years ago, all the road were being repaired between almost all the tourist spots. When I asked why, I was told that tourist season was also road repair season as it was the only time that they could get the material and the ground was not frozen.

I know that we will get through this and I will say to those coming from the south end of town. Figure out a better path to Rupp Arena( and a back up plan) now, while you still have time, because nobody wants to miss tip-off this season.

A Trip To St James Ct.

Friday, Mrs. Sweeper and I made our annual trip to Louisville for the St James Art Show in historic Old Louisville. This trip is one that we make as our time to get away from work, kids and Lexington for the day and just have some time to ourselves(and a few thousand other art lovers).

I watched the weather reports all week hoping for a good forecast and when I awoke Friday morning thought that the day just could be a bust. The radar showed that the rain had cleared the Louisville area so we set out for a cool, dreary day and by the time we arrived in town the sun was bright in the clearing sky.

I have prided myself for years on my knowledge of Lexington, but Louisville has always caused me confusion. I get disoriented very easily in that city. I once drove an older blind friend to Louisville to visit his mother in a nursing home, and though blind, he directed me through areas that I would compare to Hamburg and a back route to downtown. Over the years I have been able to get to St James Ct. from several different directions and get out again.

One thing that did catch my attention this year, is that the timing of the traffic signals in downtown Louisville appear to be on much shorter cycles than Lexington. I know that the average cycle for red lights here is around 70 seconds, but the cycle in Louisville seems to be nearly half of that. Barely seems to be enough time to look around to get ones bearings, does speed up traffic movement though.

I quickly found a place to park some two block walk from the show and we soon were beginning our traipse around the tents of exhibitors. We started at the north end of the booths on Third St and worked our way to and around the corner at Magnolia to the food court at just about noontime. Mrs. Sweeper and I are both fond of gyros and decided to get some and a drink, the first disappointment of the day.

They took Mrs. Sweeper's order first and when I added that I wanted the identical, the girl behind the counter requested another lemonade and figured the total, $12, not bad for fair food. It quickly became obvious that she had not heard the second gyro order and I had to ask again, for another $8. Now, I know that these food booth people are there to make money and it is not simple to set these things up in the field, but I think that this is a little exorbitant. I also think that if they had had a price list prominently visible, I would not have ordered at those prices.

Next the second disappointment. With gyros in one hand and a drink in the other, amidst a gently moving throng, we realized that there was NOWHERE to sit. Central Park beckoned from just behind the food tents, but there was no marked access to the park. We managed to squeeze between two booths, into the park and... nothing but a few taken benches and the muddy, recently rained on ground. This has all the ingredients for a messy disaster in my book; plates full of food(some sticky), a jostling crowd(with kids), and pricey, delicate artwork. Could not the City of Louisville have supplied a number of picnic tables in an area of the park? I know that Lexington has for just about any festival event in town.

These problems behind us, we then began the circuit of the St James Ct. portion, down the west side of St James, Belgravia to Sixth and back, St James to Hill St then back to Belgravia's eastern half, back to St James for the east side. The serpentine route through the median arrangement of booths brought us back to the park edge and it was closing in on 5:00 P.M. We still had the Fourth St. vendors and the southern end of Third St. to go before we wanted to leave.

We saw some beautiful pieces of art and saw some of the newer works of those artists that we like. We bought a few things and looked for pieces that had the right color or shape or style for those few problem areas at home. Some of the prices were just out of our league, but we enjoy going to see whats new and it is our little get-away.

We had intended to stop on the way out of town for dinner at a little place on Bardstown Rd. but like I said before, I get all turned around in Louisville and I don't have a good map(or GPS) in my car. Mrs Sweeper is geographically impaired, which is why she has me, but I was of no use yesterday and we had to get back home before it got too late. Cracker Barrel had to fill in for the Mediterranean food that we had desired.

All in all it was a good trip. We love being in the older parts of downtowns, no matter which city, and the beautiful old houses and buildings are a joy. There were some high points and some low points and Louisville still confuses me.

But there is always next year.