I have been following the recent controversy about the proposed hotel near the corner of Southland Dr and Nicholasville Rd and have bee amused by the commentary.
It seems that the nearby residents wish to prevent what some call progress by claiming that they want to keep their backyards “private”. Folks all over town are building “privacy” fences in neighborhoods where two story homes look directly into the adjacent yard and, in some cases, those on adjacent blocks if the hillsides are steep enough. I have no idea what these people do in their backyards that they need to be so private, but it may be either risky (or risque).
The problem that I have is with the people in the neighborhood on the south side of Southland, well out of visual range and even earshot. Why is it that folks don't want to try to improve certain locations when just a little teamwork will do wonders.
My first memories of the intersection involve the building which houses the Denny's restaurant. It was an Independent Grocers Association (IGA) market when I was a small lad, the last vestige of town and the beginning of the narrow two lane road to Nicholasville. The family took trips the the locally owned “Bird & Animal Forest”, located about midway between the two communities, on summer Sundays. It was a crude attempt at a petting zoo but we enjoyed it.
My father's friend had a few acres and a roadside motel, some horses and ,I think, a pay lake. I searched for it some time back on some old aerial photos and actually found it. Today, that spot is occupied by the eastern half of the New Circle Road interchange. What a major change.
Southland Dr., as many know, was built as an alternate route to bypass the railroad crossing of Rosemont Gardens. The early drawing call it the “Southern U pass” since it incorporated a bridge to separate the auto traffic from the Southern Railroad trains. Waller Avenue had yet to be extended beyond the tracks toward Harrodsburg Rd. so the only access across the tracks was Virginia Ave., Rosemont and Stone Rd.(now Pasadena).
Commercial development exploded in this area during the '60s, thus the new residential subdivisions were required to provide sidewalks but the older “main drag”, where the shopping was designated, was exempt. Folks in those days hopped in the car just to go to the end of the block and who wants to look out for the pedestrians who should not be there. Southland Dr was not a neighborhood shopping center, it drew from all over the south end of Lexington. In many cases it still functions that way today.
Over the years this area has added some newer and larger uses and is no longer “out on the edge of town”. We should be looking to bring this intersection up to the sense of an urban retail corridor. One way to do that is to remove the types of uses which perpetuate the parking habits of the now aging “baby boomers”. Restaurants in Chevy Chase can succeed with their doors opening to the sidewalk and parking in the rear, so is Southland Dr area that much worse.
What I see, in this location, is an excellent opportunity to enhance this visual aspect of the intersection and allow the neighborhood to metamorphose into a vibrant entryway to the Southland experience. The proposed mid-rise hotel can begin to fill the space with active evening traffic but it still need desirable support uses like full-service sit-down restaurants and up-scale retail which can draw the neighborhood folks without making them get in their cars.
Gas stations are still a fact of life but some of the newer ones have found that being situated on an extremely congested corner with turn lanes presents unwanted access nightmares. At most times of the day one can only approach the existing Shell station from the southbound lanes and exit with a right turn only movement. No service work is done on site so the need for the massive paved area adds to the water runoff which the neighbors are so vocal about.
Now, visualize if you can, imagine a structure built along the lines of the former Taylor Tire station at the corner of Old East Vine and Grand Blvd. It has been re-purposed as a retail complex, but it sits so close to the street that it has that cozy feel. A new building, placed similarly and perhaps with wing along both major streets, could accommodate fuel pumps streetside and in the back, address the street with a pleasing facade and allow for plantings or the like.
Continuing the streetscape on toward the donut shop and at an equal setback, the atmosphere becomes conducive to pedestrian traffic as well as auto. At present, Lextran does not use this section of Southland Dr but this streetscape will lend itself to adding a stop in the future. Replacing the existing Denny's with a more fitting facility would also do wonders for the area.
I honestly believe that even the hotel could be placed a little bit farther off the adjacent residential if the corner was redeveloped as a whole. Even the existing car wash could be accommodated in a pleasing manner.
The neighbors probably need to step back a bit, think about how they can get something a little closer to what they desire and work with the developer to give everybody a win-win scenario to shoot for. It can be for everybody's best interest.
Let me know what you feel.