Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Public Art On Display

I received a note from the "Storm Drain Girls" today and they are finally finished. Blake and Cynthia have done a beautiful job.

Below is a tally of their accomplishments and I also welcome Blake as my newest follower.
27 locations
30 finished storm drains!
1 curb painted per request by the Lexington Police Department

1. Mechanic and Limestone
2. Limestone and 6th
3. Limestone and Short (2)
drains near the Justice bldgs and Giacomo's/Mia's

4.Limestone and Church
(near George's deli
5. Short and Broadway
6. Clay and High
7. Stone and High
8. High between MLK and Hagerman
9. Main and Jefferson
10. Maxwell and Rose
11. Eastern and Main (2) one on each side
12. 3rd and Limestone
13. 3rd and Elm Tree Lane
14. Elm Tree Lane and 3rd
15. Clay and Central Avenue
16. Central and Clay
17. Old Vine and Vine
18. Vine and Old Vine
19. Euclid and High
(near Buddy's patio)

20. Double Storm Drain on Euclid and Woodland
21. Euclid before Rose Street
22. Rose and High
23. Jefferson and 3rd
(across from The Green Lantern
24. High at the YMCA
25. MLK and Main street
26. Main street ~The Kentucky Theater (2)
(this one's for you Freddie!)

27. Main and Rose
1. Curb at Main and Rose Street

I don't have a photo of all their work and I was not the first to notice or blog on their progress, but I have found that their project is one that has captivated the whole city. It has stirred up almost as much press as the HorseMania display.

Speaking of the HorseMania, I see that they have begun corralling the steeds in preparation for winter and the fund-raising auction. I saw many of them this time around and was asked the other day if it would be another decade before we see a new set of horses and artists. Don't you think that it would be a hoot if the had them all on display in the CentrePointe "pasture" and held the auction there?

I also witnessed what may be called "performance art" although it may have been a free spirited young lady just having a little fun. There she was dancing to the music on her iPod in front of the fountain in the Court House plaza.

This is something that we could stand a little more of, don't you think?

Monday, October 25, 2010

I Stand Corrected

I made a mistake in last nights post. I took Mr Gray at his word and used his math for the cost of the S. Limestone project. I should not have done that.

According to the morning Herald-Leader that claim is FALSE. It did not cost $7,000 a foot, it was more like $5,000. It also was priced for far more than paving as I said last night.

This was a project that had its beginnings in the Town-Gown meetings between the University and the City. If I recall correctly, the Vice Mayor was initially part of that committee and may have kept attending through their recommendations. The Downtown Development Authority also included it in their Downtown Master Plan, which Mr. Gray served on is some capacity. It is also unclear whether he was still attending when the final plan was passed.

One thing that is not unclear is the vote that Mr. Gray cast to NOT decrease the budgeted amount. With the economy in decline and some certainty as to funding from Stimulus money( not like the CentrePointe deal) or other Federal money, Gray and the rest of the Council went along in approving this street rebuilding. It WAS much more than your normal, seasonal repaving.

From the comments that I have read about the project, I believe that some property owners and businessmen looked at this as "just another pie-in-the-sky, city plan" and, if it gets underway, it will be like the house-flipping shows on TV. This was an "extreme makeover", not just putting lipstick on a pig.

The contractor also won the job, not on the lowest bid but on the best bid. The only other bidder could not make the original finish date, ATS not only completed on time, but under budget despite the unforeseen extras found while excavating Lexington's history.

I can only hope that the Herald-Leader has better things to say when the S. Lime/S. Upper/Scott St intersection is rebuilt in the next few years.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Worth $7,000 A Foot, I Think So

I have become a bit more disappointed with Mr. Gray and his campaign tactics. He now is attacking one of Lexington’s best accomplishments in years. It is not because of the massive acclaim about how good it looks or the increased business opportunities that it has allowed, rather it is the final cost. His claim is that it cost approximately $7,000 a linear foot and well over the estimated bid price.

Anybody in the construction business knows that there is always a chance of cost overruns in any project and the older the original construction the more chance of unexpected behind-the-scenes problems. South Limestone was full of unexpected problems and most of them were from lack of repair for many years.

The advertised claim is that a “political supporter” of Newberry’s received the contract while being the high bidder. It is made to appear that cronyism is rampant yet the work was done within the specified time despite numerous extras and a constantly hostile blogosphere/press. I would hate to see the results had someone like JPC, who had many problems with the concrete work on Vine St, done the work. The Vine St work was poured poorly, more than once being poured and taken out the next day due to mistakes, to the point that it was said that the acronym mane stood for “just playing in concrete”. Such problems along S Lime were rare.

Also alluded to, is the belief that several South Lime businesses went broke (or out of business) and more than one did leave the street. The tattoo shop from the corner of Maxwell and Lime is now at S. Broadway and Bolivar(soon to be Oliver Lewis Way) and right next door to a relocated Tolly-Ho, which should begin to anchor a revitalized business section of Broadway. The prospects of increased activity an Lime, as well as Vine and Main are beginning to show themselves.

I terms of awarding the initial contract, I believe that it was the action of the Council and not the mayor alone who okayed the price. It may have been over the protests of Mr. Gray and others but that is how our democratic process works, a majority rules. Should Mr. Gray have built his spirit of cooperativeness during the previous 3 ½ years and included more the other council members, I feel that he could have easily had more influence over the awarding of development related contracts. That is where his expertise lies, is it not?

Speaking of his expertise, development, construction and design, just where is he leading this council, as Vice Mayor, along those lines? He was on the Infill and Redevelopment committee and has not attended many meeting since it became bogged down in some of the minutia of details. He participated with the DDA on the Downtown Master Plan and yet some of the major parts like design guidelines and form based codes are lacking from being created. How is the experience of his “family’s business” being used to help the City of Lexington so far?

It is almost always said that the mayor is the leader of the city, but the charter places the policy decisions squarely in the lap of the Urban County Council. The Mayor is in charge of seeing that the policy is carried out. Just about all ordinances begin with the phrase “the council authorizes and directs to Mayor to…” and while the mayor may propose many initiatives, it is the Council who decides what the policy should be. The leading force of that council should, by right, be the at-large candidate with the most votes in the most recent election and is named the Vice Mayor. That mantle currently rests on Mr. Gray’s shoulders, yet we see none of his policy desires being brought to the fore nor enacted. Can somebody tell me why?

I am not a huge Newberry fan, nor an I encouraged by many of the other current council members, but Gray is as much an “unknown quantity” now as he was eight years ago when he first ran.

I think that I will stay with the devil I know.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Getting Back To Normal?

The WEG is over and the city is getting back to doing (or completing) the public works items that they couldn't get to before.

Way-finding signs

One of those tasks is the installation of the way-finding signs along our major thoroughfares. Below is one that I found by the Lexington Center entrance.

On first glance it appears quite straight forward, but further study gives me pause. The normal rule of Interstate informational signs, especially those giving mileage, will list the destinations in order of distance from nearest to farthest. Even exit signs have a hierarchy based on location and distance. This set of signs has me a bit baffled.

The set on the left clearly shows that one has to turn onto Broadway in order to reach the destinations while the set on the right may be reached by going straight ahead. So far, so good. the first location reached would be the Lexington Opera House just two blocks away and it is listed at the bottom (I would have expected at the top) followed by the Thoroughbred Center. The Training Center is the farthest distant from this sign and well out of town. Whether we are working the distance from the top or the bottom, this is out of place. Transylvania University should be next with the Applebee's ballpark falling between the university and the Center.

The right side set is equally confusing. By going straight, you may reach the Cheapside Park(and Pavilion) , but not without making a turn somewhere. Likewise, a turn must be made to reach the University of Kentucky campus. Perhaps an angled arrow to the right should have been used instead. In any case, Cheapside is reached first and again it is at the bottom. I will point out here that there is NO sign indicating a turn to Cheapside, either at Mill or Limestone, nor is there a sign at Upper for the University. Our next closest location is the Visitor and Convention Bureau at Rose St. One may also turn here for the University but I have seen no sign or indication of one planned here. And, last on this straight trajectory would be Ashland, Henry Clay's Estate, some two miles out Richmond Rd.

All of the signs are not up yet and things may get better, but this sign is a head scratcher in my opinion.

Main St Developments

A while back I wrote about some happenings on Main St. It seems like we are not finished making news yet. It has come to my attention that the building housing the Sunrise Bakery and Bellini's private dining room along with the First National Building are going before the Court House Design Review Board concerning facade improvements.

That would make it just about everybody on that stretch of Main St is doing some sort of upgrade to their looks. If this side of the street had been included in the CentrePointe TIF we could soon be seeing some revenue generated from this, and all without CentrePointe breaking ground.

Love it or hate it, since CentrePointe was announced the downtown activity has intensified and focused around Cheapside and Short St, with bleed-over to Main and even Vine St. In my mind the demolition of the block has been a catalyst for downtown development. How many people would have seen how much potential this block-face had or thought of how to repair past damage? Historic downtown is now on three sides of the Lexington History Museum and appears to be as lively as any time in its past and is poised for an even better future.

Fellow Bloggers

Lastly, I am becoming concerned about some fellow bloggers, namely ProgressLex. There last post is over a month old and dared them to be great. Since then, nothing. As if they cannot find anything to be great about. I sort of miss them since they generated more discussion n my favorite topics than I've seen elsewhere. Maybe they are busy with election stuff or were tied up with WEG/Spotlight activities, but I hope that they are back in the fray soon.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Future Of Spotlight

The stage is down. The vendors tents are gone. The hospitality tents are being emptied. The eyes of the world are being focused elsewhere. The homeless are back in Phoenix Park and all is right with the world of Lexington, again.

We had a really exciting run of a Spotlight Festival with people downtown, milling about at all hours during the day - and night. There was a vibe in the crowd that you just don't feel during the usual Thursday Night Live performances. I don't believe that our out-of-town guests brought it with them because they were commenting on it too. This vibe came from us, the local folks, some of which have not been downtown for anything in years - except maybe a ball game.

The local restaurant and bar scene felt the vibe and went with the flow. The ones that I spoke with were extremely happy with the foot traffic and the sidewalk seating, all brought on by some marvelous weather.

One of the first comments that I heard on the street was "This is what a real city is like." and then, as the festival went on, many more along the lines of "We should do this more often." I agree, we should do this more often - starting next year. A commenter on the Herald-Leader web site complained that those considering a yearly continuation should NOT involve the "same old people" and allow those who "really know how do it" to have control. My response to that is - Where have they been and why haven't they done something before now, if they know how to do it?

This festival took a focal event to get some city leaders moving toward this and that won't be here next year. This festival utilized a space which may not be available in the future. And, this festival welcomed many from out of town whom we hope will come back, yet probably not just for a festival of our downtown. This festival needs to be a springboard to greater things, but we NEED to determine just where that is. What local event could we tie into to make this evolving festival unique to Lexington?

We now have a committee charged with the task of charting any future of the Spotlight (boy would I love to help on that) and there is a lot of work to do. There are so many questions to be answered in the coming months but I think that those who participated in and attended the Spotlight Festival have answered the first and most basic one, "do we want this?"

This answer is a resounding YES.