Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Grow Lexington's Economy With Beer?

For those of you interested in our rise in craft breweries and in how they can grow our local economy, or just those who like to buy local, mark your calendars for January 10, 2013.

That is the date for a Webinar titled ”How Can a Microbrewery Grow Your Local Economy?” . Any body truly wanting to grow our local economy will want to hear how other communities are progressing and what their mis-steps were.

It is recognized that microbreweries offer substantial opportunities for communities and that they allow for re-using vacant space, they also create local jobs; attract new companies or expand existing ones; and increase the tax base. We have already seen some of this in Lexington's fledgling efforts.

While registration is not cheap($95 for IEDC members, $135 for Non-members) the information offered could pay dividends all of Central Kentucky.  Please share your comments on what you learn.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Black Boxes For Your Shiney Metal Boxes

Is anyone ready for some startling news out of Washington DC.

Our Federal regulators are making ready some new rules which will require event data recorders - also called "black boxes" - in all new cars and light trucks. Currently 91.6 percent of all U.S. autos have them. Since automakers have been surreptitiously doing this for years - despite privacy concerns – I wonder why all the uproar now.

These devices record driver actions and vehicle response for accident investigation, or that is the stated reason for their use. With the nano-miniaturization these days, they can record well more than the last 10 seconds of active use or the 15 data types of the early models. Some investigators have identified around 80 data points which could be useful.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is expected to release the rules in the next few days making these devices mandatory equipment and record at least 30 data types. There will be no opt-out, but many of the most popular models have had these things since the early ‘90s (about the time that they began OnStar). This information was only divulged in the last 3 months.

"Most people who are operating a motor vehicle have no idea this technology is integrated into their vehicle." said Lillie Coney, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a privacy advocacy group. I will go one better, most people who are operating a motor vehicle have no idea that they are driving a cell phone on wheels.

The fact that the auto can do a self diagnosis and call you with the results would raise many more privacy concerns than the last 10 seconds before an accident. Your auto has the ability to call OnStar (or just about anybody else) with or without alerting you first. The progress being made on driver-less vehicles is depending on this inter-vehicle communication for spacing and collision avoidance. Who knows when else they could talk between themselves. (Grillebook as a social medium, anyone?)

Despite privacy complaints, the government so far hasn't put any limits on how the information can be used. Right now there are no bounds or consequences, either to the government or any commercial venture, legal or not. Cell phone “aps” which will allow you limited operation of your auto remotely may not be as secure as they would have you believe.

Recorder data from some vehicles has already contributed to the traffic safety administration's conclusion to the problem of sticky gas pedals and floor mats that could jam them. They have also shown several high profile celebrities to have been at fault for traffic cases. Data that could be gathered from the other OnStar like systems would show where people shop, work and live, maybe that is currently being done also.

In the Senate’s transportation bill, passed earlier this year, the vehicle’s owner was designated as the owner of the required, recorded data. I wonder how much money one could get for collecting their own data and selling it on the open market. Would you be willing to sell your data for the right price? This provision was removed in a House/Senate conference negotiation, ostensibly for privacy reason but maybe to limit your ability to profit from your information This may be a slippery slope toward big government and Big Brother as noted by Rep. Bill Shuster, (R-Pa) but many of us on that slope are moving fast and picking up speed.

When I first read about this, the online comments ranged from “I'll not buy a new car again” (Well that works for Cuba) to “A powerful magnet will render it useless in no time”. Not buying a new car, in the type of urban development we have now, may be possible if very few communities and certainly not in Lexington. Being limited by the public transit systems in most places will be more unpleasant than having the insurance company know how (not where) you are driving. And speaking of the insurance companies, how do you think that they will react when they know that you have disabled a required “safety” device.

Ironically, the Alliance of Automotive Manufacturers is to the government requiring recorders in all vehicles, yet I doubt that this rises from any privacy concerns. Whenever the government gets involved or legitimizes an effort that you or your industry is doing, then they get to apply arbitrary rules and direct industry standards. Not that the industry could not also make some unsavory, arbitrary rules for their own good. Who do you trust, the government or private industry?

So, the barn door is open and the Genie is almost out of the bottle. How do you feel about this: a government intrusion or apt regulation?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Prepare For The Glut, Geezers

I am part of a large and stable group of people. I used to think a lot like the majority of them do but recently things have begun to shift. I am a “Baby Boomer”. Though not one of the early ones, I am early enough to see our situations may not be as rosy as we once believed them to be.

I am now informed that I may consider myself to be part of the “Geezer Glut”. Eighty-eight million of us who have shaped this country's economy and culture for the last 50 years and then shipped it globally. We did it our way and it was fun, wasn't it?

As Ben Brown put it “We’re in the middle of one of our periodic – and probably our last – reality denial exercises.” With the science and technology that we have developed over our run, can our playtime can extend into infinity (and beyond)?  Have we learned nothing from watching our grandparents age and pass on, and then our parents?

Well, some have learned that if we place them in an “age-segregated housing unit” where they can socialize with their peers, we can continue our “active“ lives until it is time for them to go. Remember to visit often and take the kids.

I have posted about this three times over the past 2 years. How we possibly need to rethink the way we have arranged our community so as to accommodate our loved ones. How we may need to look at the legacy of a city that we will leave our children. How we might have been so busy living our “active” life that we misjudged how we will use the deceleration lane. 

And I am not alone.
We suffer from a severe lack of foresight, a shortage of personal and community planning when it comes to where and how to age. We’ve separated our elders from their extended families without replacing what their relatives might once have provided: a decent quality of life, until the very end.”
Linda Selin Davis on The Atlantic Cities blog of October 3
As I have said before, I am reading the book Walkable City and looking to relate what I read to what I know about Lexington.  Part of the idea of building a walkable city is to diversify the city life experience for all of residents of a city. It is not just making the roadways capable of accommodating pedestrians, but for pedestrians of all ages and capabilities. It is not about the distance one can walk, whether it be exercise or not, but the ability to use walking as a mode of everyday travel.

What was once a series of neighborhoods, each with their central civic amenities (schools, church, retail...), diverse housing types and not so readily apparent edges, are now expanses of residential sameness separating those now edge defining, civic amenities. Is it so easy to tell where one transitions from Ashland Park to Chevy Chase and yet the jump from Palomar to Beaumont is quite dramatic? The areas which do have a somewhat centralized component of non-residential uses, are of such massive size as to deter all but auto-centric access.

This shortage of personal and community planning, the planning for unaided interpersonal connectivity, has brought on a certain level of isolation. Isolation which the Millienials have recognized and seem to be rejecting. This same isolation will complicate every challenge found in old age as it is designed into the places most American Boomers call home.
Most Boomers will age in neighborhoods that are unlikely to sustain any kind of care network system. That is fine, if you don't need the care or are responsible for one who does. While it is often a complicated endeavor to drive the kids to their daily destinations, what will be the solution for the aged? The presumed connectivity by car will exile anyone without the ability or desire to drive.
The $51 billion industry, which is the “retirement community” movement has a less than stellar reputation, as documented in numerous places, and at this point of our fiscal health may become a less likely option for most. Our home builders and re-modelers can certainly provide scenarios for aging at home. But aging in places that isolate seniors in their homes, regardless of how easy it is to live in, barely scratches the surface of the problem.

What we need are strategies that will allow for "successful" aging in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has amassed a lot of research about ways neighborhood design and transportation policy affect community health. Just as we have a concept of “Safe by Design”, can we not dovetail a “Healthy by Design” into the dialogue?

It may be that for so long we have been designing and planning our community for who we are or who is already here and not for who we will become or who we want to come. I am part of the Geezer Glut and we will be part of the future, but we are not the future. We had that chance and I am not so sure that we did a good job. 

 Now is a time for better thought.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Like Things Of The Past

In the past several years the leaders of our community have brought in, sometimes at great expense, recognized experts to assist in our downtown planning. Folks like Jeanne Gang, Omar Blaik and Gary Bates have contributed their talents to specific projects and usually, very limited parts of our collective home, Lexington Ky.

Each time great care was taken to collect detailed physical data and a distilled compilation of opinions from the “stakeholders” of the project de jour. The results of these “expert” visits are then revealed with much ballyhoo and flair, which is then followed by the common nit-picking and nay-saying of the newspaper commentators, the search for political will and the greater funding with which to pull it off. Our success rate in the last decade is less than spectacular and maybe even abysmal. Certainly the rate for the last several decades is shameful.

Maybe the downfall for these expert plans was the consistent, limited scope of the individual project or the often trendiness of the solution which, as all trends do, fell quickly out of favor. Some of the trendy plans were misapplied and failed, even before the fad could run its course.

One sure element which has been left out of nearly all of these “solutions” is the need for the “human scale” elements, that's us humans, to interact between the various loci without mechanical intervention. In other words can we walk safely, comfortably and quickly from place to place and without feeling like we were wandering the Sahara. Traversing a treeless stretch of sidewalk or parking lot, either in the summer or winter, is no fun with or without a bunch of kids in tow.

I am currently read the new book, Walkable City - How downtown can save America, one step at a time by Jeff Speck, and though I could try and blast through it, I am taking the time to really compare how Lexington stacks up to his suggestions. So far, our city is in dire need of his thoughtful suggestions.

Speck claims that we “know” how to build successful walkable cities. Or we used to, because there are very walkable, older areas in many cities which are the remains of how it used to be done. I seems that we just “forgot” the process some 70 years ago and for four decades we went about doing something different. Those four decades were enough to allow many folks to believe that “this is how we have always done it” and “it shouldn't be done any other way”.

Not being a math whiz, I can still figure out that 70 years or so ago was in the later half of the 1930s. Just about the time that we let the streetcar system in Lexington die and the automobile culture really take over. It was also about ten years after a noted “expert” was brought in to write and give direction to The 1930 Comprehensive Plan. The end of the Great Depression, assisted by the Second World War, brought many “progressive” ideas on modern life and we began to forget how to build walkable elements into our lives.

Some 25 or 30 years ago, some planners began to notice that the human element was being left out of the new buildings being designed for our downtowns and other civic areas, while others noticed it missing from our subdivisions and suburban shopping centers also. The problem was that they were going up against the previous 40 years of growing, conventional “wisdom.”

That 40 years of conventional “wisdom” is alive right here in Lexington as evidenced by the continued use of bloated parking requirements, great swaths of residential development on barely navigable cul-de-sacs and large retail developments which lack any type of walkability. Even though changes are becoming evident in public thoughts and actions (housing choices and driving patterns), the plan updates show no real changes in land use designations or transportation choices. In most cases, I feel that we are operating under the land use and development codes of the 1960s, albeit with some nuanced tweaks and adjustments along the way.

In some minds, we really do need to make our city walkable - but that just means doing some enhancements to the downtown area or making sure that sidewalks are included in all new subdivisions. Downtown is the major focus whereas the whole city should be the target and for those intoxicated by the kool-aid of conventional “wisdom” the downtown is a wasteland and more or better sidewalks are not the answer.

It is my belief that our local planers, though raised on the conventional wisdom model, do desire to institute real change. They have all heard and read about the re-awakening of urbanism as a development model but as long as the property owners and their developers are still meeting the calcified standards of old, then what we have will be what we continue to receive.

So the question now stands, how do we bring about the change necessary in Lexington? Will we get to a point that the conventional “wisdom” begins to cost us in terms of attraction and retention of the talent displayed by the “creative class” Millennials so desired by our city. Some already believe that the brain drain is in progress, but I have heard that for most of my adult life. Will the change come from our leaders or from the residents as they relocate to desirable areas – here or elsewhere? Also, how will the use of conventional “wisdom” impede the change so needed?

The latest edition of Business Lexington details the recent addition of two planning professionals who are looking for the change that Lexington needs to make. Dr. Derek Paulsen and Jeff Fugate may be just the people who can debunk some of that conventional “wisdom” but old habits run very deep. We may need to look to our past for some solutions.

In the past we have brought in “experts” and sometimes we listened, is it time for another?

With my ear to the ground, till next time.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Color Of Another Horse

Many of you know that I follow the happenings of the dining and entertainment scene, especially when it appears to bring new life to our downtown neighborhoods. Sometimes I get in on the early stages while other just transition very quietly.  Such is the case this week.

After hearing very little about the Penguin Dueling Piano Bar, either good or bad, I went by a few weeks ago and found that the windows had been papered over from the inside.  Clearly there was a remodeling afoot.  Last weekend they opened as Paulie's Toasted Barrel, with a decor of antique wood which hopefully will aid in the sound attenuation problem for the rest of the condo owners.  This is still a little of of the beaten path for many, but lets see what we can do for them.

What I am waiting for is the opening of Lexington's latest craft brewery.  A development which is following the example of our other craft brewers and locating in a building setting right up on the sidewalk, inviting the neighborhood and enlivening the street scene.  I am talking about the Blue Stallion Brewing Company.

Blue Stallion is taking over the former location of the Ironhorse Forge at 610 West Third St, the intersection of the Corman Railroad and Newtown Pike next door, and an area ripe for further redevelopment.

I say that I am waiting on this not because I love craft beer, actually quite the opposite because I don't drink beer, but I do like to see something like this begin to catalyze an area.  Like the guys at West Sixth St, the Blue Stallion is just a block or so from the new BCTC campus, across from an industrial flavored Henry Street beginning to search for ways to mimic South Limestone or South Upper.  A short walk from the trolley stop on Jefferson St through historic housing in increasing states of renovation will be fun next summer. It also appears to on the uncompleted portion of the Legacy Trail.

I have been watching these guys since about August and just got a few tweets and a follow this past Monday, so I guess that things are now a real go.  I really like the logo of their "blue stallion" and I've been told that it is a rendition on Aristides, the first winner of the Kentucky Derby and grandson of Lexington (the other blue horse seen around town).

There is more than enough reason to support these guys and despite my distaste for beer, I hope that they are around for a long time.  The just happen to be the color of another horse.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It Is Just A Question Of Time.

Home for "Old Smokey" or for something else?
Long time readers will remember that I am really into trains and try to closely follow what R. J. Corman is doing in town.  Sometimes that is easier thought of than done, especially when Corman is doing so much here lately.

Recently, the guys from Corman approached the City and requested a Certificate of Occupancy for the new "glass house" that they have been building in the Lexington Center Parking lot (see photo above).  As a common carrier, the railroad is generally exempt from rules that apply to you and me and are allowed to build just about anything that they want in the name of rail commerce. 

Such is the case in the building of the "glass house".  The prep work and excavation for the rail spur under the Oliver Lewis bridge began over two years ago.  I speculated then that it could be for a Lexington based version of the Corman Dinner Train, but not a mention was made by the railroad itself.  Articles have appeared in the local paper and still no mention of anything but "a place to the steam locomotive".

The "glass house" facility has no obvious ability to service such a locomotive as the mechanical equipment is missing .  Even the firing of the boilers looks to be problematic, since the ceiling is that bright pristine white.  This structure is definitely designed for some level of public access.

This brings me back to the request of the Certificate of Occupancy which all public building should have and is the final paperwork in the permitting process.  Just one hitch, there has been no permit issued for the "glass house".  There have been no plans filed for the building and no inspections, you know, that whole "exempt from the rules" thing. 

My question is, if they have not bothered with any Permits or Certificates for any of their other buildings (or improvements), why are they now asking for this one?  Will this building be host to a steady number of visitors from the public?  Why is this a priority now? 

This building, from all indications (and the rendering shown accompanying the request) is for the local rendition of a dinner train.  From Lexington to the wye at Christiansburg, by way of Midway and Frankfort, and return.  More than two and a half times as far as the Bardstown version, though maybe not as interesting in terms of scenery.

We will have a dinner train in Lexington.  It is just a question of time.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Thoughts On An Andy Barr Commercial

Some things that Andy Barr and the Republican Party need to know about the coal industry.

Daniel Sparks over at The Motley Fool has penned an excellent piece on the realities of the energy situation in America today. Starting with the harsh truth that the process of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking” is the leader in acquiring cheap energy from the earth. Much like the early auto builders created less and less demand for carriages and buggy whips, the natural gas producers are leaving coal as an energy source in declining demand.

The early auto industry quickly created new jobs which required different skill sets than the old buggy makers possessed and the local blacksmiths also learned something new or found themselves losing work. So too must the coal miners realize that there are other forces than government regulations affecting the demand for coal. Primarily, it looks to be the “free market” which so many cite as the drummer to whose beat we should be marching.

Put bluntly, natural gas is now half the price of Appalachian coal. It may have happened during the current presidential administration and it may have some effect on the goals of the EPA, but it clearly came about due to the market forces of business. Carbon emissions are down nearly 8% since 2006, partly due to less driving but mostly to less coal use for power generation. Natural gas is cleaner to burn as a fuel, it generates electricity with twice the efficiency, it is not as destructive to the environment to produce (some differ on this) and the safety records of the production fields don’t seem to match the coals industry records. Is it any wonder that coal production is declining?

Today, coal generates just 34% of our electricity, down from 50% just four years ago. In the future, that rate will go down. As President Obama said as he was campaigning, “You can build a coal fired generating plant if you want but…” and the real economic wizards have already realized that they WILL go bankrupt in doing so. So they have not built the coal fired plants. Converting from coal to gas has appeared to be the more economical way to go.

Daniel’s piece concern’s itself with the effect that this decline in coal has had on the railroad industry and how the individual railroads have adjusted to it. Sure, the hauling of coal is a high-margin business and any decline in volume will show up in the company’s bottom line, but the railroads are not whining about the loss of business or jobs. They seem to be rolling with flow and making do.

In Andy Barr’s case, the loss of coal jobs, in his district, or even the loss of rail jobs statewide would look to be minimal, in the worst case scenario. The possibility of more efficiently generated electricity, produced from locally drilled gas wells (yes, Eastern Kentucky is full of them) that may keep our utility rates low is a future hope, but the decline in coal demand is a reality of today.

Coal demand is not just down in Appalachia, the decline is occurring across the nation. The coal of the Powder River Basin, itself a threat to Appalachian coal due to sulfur content, has also seen a similar decline in mining. The problem for Barr and his coal mining supporters seems to stem from the long-term price contracts negotiated to protect the coal operators and not the miners themselves.

Indeed the drop in natural prices - roughly $12 per million BTUs in 2008 versus roughly $4 now - has some executives believing the situation will benefit not just particular companies and industries, but the economy as a whole.

Perhaps the Republicans and Barr in particular do not really understand the economy as a whole in the first place.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Millennials And Walking

Jeff Speck, author of The Walkable City, has pointed out that “64% of Millennials are now choosing where they want to live before finding a job, and 77% plan to live in urban areas.” He backs this statement up by reasoning that generally one in four teenagers are opting out of obtaining drivers licenses. I have heard many explanations as to why the decline in teenage driving, but I don’t feel that the reason is purely economic. The boomers moved to the suburbs because that is where their parents did not live. Could the Millennials be moving downtown for the same reasons?

Of course, for some, those planning to live in “urban areas” could mean simply living in the city proper and not remaining “down on the farm” but here in Lexington I believe that it is more about getting out of the suburban sprawl of our last 4 decades of development. Spending hours per day on school buses or being ferried about by parents seems to be growing old for a lot of young folks. Having a multitude of destinations within walking distance of their college campus’s and especially if there is a downtown nearby, is suddenly very appealing to them.

Millennials now want to be close to work, they don’t mind that entertainment is nearby their homes, along with other amenities and they don’t mind using public transit to get to those amenities beyond walking distance. Some of the things that they were introduced to in college are now desirable in their working life, just like the things that they were used to in their parent’s home are now necessary in the college dorm.

So, just what kind of a downtown will Lexington provide for our Millennials? In many parts of the country our inner cities are beginning to resemble the suburbs, and vice versa. Except for the downtown business district, our parking requirements and building setbacks look very much like the suburbs from which the Millennials are escaping. Some of our downtown streets are as wide and uninviting as the “boulevards” of their youth (you know, the ones that they were not supposed to cross). If it is so similar to what they left, then why would they want to stay?

In my opinion, so far they are seeking out the more interesting streets, those which are vastly different from the sometimes broad, treeless landscapes of the typical subdivision where they played as kids. I think that they are discovering the wonders of the neighborhoods like the one that I grew up in. Streets with older trees, which lead to interesting destinations just a few short blocks away and not more of the same as far as the child's eye can see.

Sadly, even these areas succumb to the ravages of the neglect of those who really should know better. Those which are caught in time may be salvaged, but too often they too will endure the expedient redevelopment tactic of rebuilding in the suburban style. Maintaining an older neighborhood, like those which we are considering, tend to be a bit more on the pricey side initially. Never mind that the eventual property value increase can add to the charm and desirability.

I know that we, as a society, cannot prevent the redevelopment of the areas around the downtown core, not if we want to continue to grow our city. Just like we cannot perpetuate the expansion of low density sprawl into the remaining fertile fields, we also cannot wipe out the still viable parts of our community while replacing it with suburban “blah”. I don't believe that it occurred that way in the historical cities of our Eastern seaboard or the European cities which attract numerous visitors yearly. (Hint: they don't go there for the horses either).

So, just what kind of a downtown will Lexington provide for our Millennials? Will it be a large scale, coordinated (government directed) effort of “top down” which many equate to the cold war style of the past. In the words of Rocket J. Squirrel, when asked by Bullwinkle about a rabbit and a hat, “That trick never works”. Will we see some sort of grass roots “real” urbanism, be it new or otherwise, played out a la the W. Short St. renaissance of late? The Rupp Arena Arts district is a perfect place to start, but we may need to look at uses other than our “dining and bars” or “destination venue” methods which we have already tried. Enabling and allowing an organic development to flourish may be the better solution.

It is not just our downtown which needs to be made over. It is not just the Millennials which need to have comfortable urban surroundings in which they can thrive. Our other residents may also desire the urban like look and feel of city living. Currently, that does not seem to be the case, but when the alternative is just a denser flavor of the stale suburban development model it is no wonder that neighborhoods rebel against the proposals put forward. For years I have heard the retorts that people won't buy it, but I have also seen the angry rejections of the mediocre solutions which the developers offer.

We have long known of the health befits to be gained from living in walkable neighborhoods and it is becoming clear that the health problems of our youth may stem from our overuse of the automobile, possibly exacerbated by our choice of dwelling location and lifestyle/diet. Studies have shown that asthma rates drop when people live in areas with fewer vehicle miles traveled, driving is now the primary cause of air pollution and fewer people die from auto crashes when they drive fewer miles.

For the Millennials which do end up living outside of downtown, what kind of city will we create for them? It may be clear that they do not want to live in the cul-de-sac maze of their youth, but can the subdivisions be re-purposed to suit the new lifestyles. Only time will tell.

Speck does point out that there are four primary steps to making your city a “walkable” city:
  • Create a reason to walk.
  • Create that walk to be a safe walk (real and perceived).
  • Make walks comfortable (space and orientation).
  • Design interesting walks.
The methods to implement these four steps are different for the suburban area versus the downtown but the end goal should be the same, to create an environment in which folks desire to walk. For so long now, I think that we have tried harder to eliminate the need to walk than we have to build a desirable environment, be it walkable or not.

As Speck tells us, and other sites confirm, the Millennials are looking for a city before they will begin looking for a job. The small steps taken (and proposed) in our downtown development, good though they be, will not be enough to win the battle by themselves. It is now time to plan for who we wish to live in Lexington and not just the folks who already do.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Another Traffic Rant?

I guess that it is about time for my semi-annual traffic rant. It has been about six months since the last discussion on our propensity to want one thing and do another, especially when it comes to transportation matters. 

In that time the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has conducted a national poll on transportation. Well, what timing.

This bipartisan team of pollsters held a the telephone survey, calling 800 Americans (yeah, a very small number, but it matches some other similar surveys) and found that most of them believed that the nation's current transportation system is in need of major change. I have long thought that the current model and mode share is skewed and possibly broken. A large majority of them said that what we need is more transportation options. Not more transportation, but more options.

The poll results show that Americans would prefer new transportation options and that includes rail, instead of additional highways. Granted, that does not mean that they all want some sort of passenger rail, though many are edging in that direction. It could mean that they want more freight rail and toget the big trucks off of the road. That could bring back the thrill of the open road that you see in all of the car commercials, but may be considered a “war on trucking” by the trucking industry. Some of the folks that I hear complaining seem to feel that a solution to the country's traffic congestion problems, is getting everyone else off the road.

Among the results, 59 percent of respondents believed the transportation system is "outdated, unreliable and inefficient;". I must say that this has me puzzled. Is it the roadway system, the cars themselves or the method in which we propel them? Are we at that time when they feel we should have the so called “cars of the future”?

Fifty eight percent of them said they would use transit more often, except that it is woefully inconvenient and not available in many places. In Lexington, we failed to maintain the system we had or ignored the prospect of expanding in a thoughtful manner, until the expense of adequately providing appropriate service is out of reach. A similar amount, 59 percent, just want more transportation options than currently available.

And most surprisingly, an astonishingly high 64 percent, nearly two thirds of all respondents, believe their community would benefit from an expanded and improved rail and/or bus system. Where have these people been for the last decade? Why do we have to have polls to find out where they are?  Where are they at the actual ballot box?

The survey shows that Americans want to drive less, and "want to shake up the status-quo mindset when it comes to relieving the traffic congestion they say they deal with all too frequently," stated the pollsters' report. 

If they could spend less time driving, how would commuters spend their extra minutes?

21 percent said they would spend more time with their family;
20 percent would cook, garden or work around the house;
13 percent would take up a hobby;
11 percent would exercise;
9 percent would get more sleep;
4 percent would volunteer; and
3 percent would work more.

Given the average commute time here in Central Kentucky, I have to wonder if our answers would be different.

Then again, if we did not feel that we had to live such a far distance from our places of employment, the commute times would be much more manageable and “getting through town” would be a thing of the past. More on this in a later post.

Another topic of much discussion has been the one-way/two-way streets downtown. 

When family and friends, who know where I work, ask about it it is always on whether it is really proceeding or not. My fellow bloggers and forum members seem to be quite adamant about making their feelings, on getting through town quickly, well known. I point out that the key word in their argument is “through” town and if others wanted to rush through their neighborhoods, the cry for speed bumps and stop signs would ring from the mountain tops.

The question also arises about where the traffic is going to “go”, when a lane or so of our currently one-way streets is reversed. Since the conversion is to be done in street pairs, the simple answer is; half of it will be on the other street. The traffic is going to “go” to the same place that it went when they closed Rose St at the Medical Center or when they took Euclid Ave from four lanes to two and a turn lane. It will “go” to the same place it “went” when they reacquired street space for pedestrians in Times Square in downtown Manhattan. It will probably “go” to some of those other options which I spoke of above.

My last transportation topic, one not so much seen here in Lexington, is the growing investment and usage of the nation's freight railroads. Several of the major Class 1 rail companies are now making their quarterly reports.

The Union Pacific is reporting that business is good. Despite a decline in coal volumes (Hey, it is not just in Kentucky, you guys) and significantly weaker steel and scrap metal markets, the railroad generated its best-ever financial results on total. The southern Powder River Basin coal tonnage dropped by 13 percent to 44.7 million primarily because of low natural gas prices and high utility stockpiles, so total coal traffic fell 12 percent. If it were not for China taking all that we can ship over to them, the totals would be even smaller. On the other hand, crude oil business jumped 300 percent. 

Railroad officials, though not sounding optimistic, say that they “will play the hand the economy deals us”and “The fourth quarter will look much like the third”. Still that would give the railroad record earnings and a sub-70 operating ratio. A first in the railroad's history.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad is having a similarly good year. They continue shipping millions of barrels of crude oil from the prolific Bakken oil play, and will, even if the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is built. BNSF’s oil shipments out of the Bakken have grown exponentially, from 1.3 million barrels in 2008 to 90 million barrels in 2012. They have invested billions of dollars in new locomotives, tank cars and track improvements to ship oil. Last month BNSF announced that it would spend $1.1 billion on locomotives, freight cars and related equipment. Somehow, this has escaped the notice of both Presidential candidates.

On a personal note, I don't like the Keystone XL pipeline and not for environmental reasons alone. The Canadian company constructing the pipeline cannot or will not give assurances that all of the oil will be refined or used in the U.S. Recently, a number of Louisiana pipelines running between ports and the refineries now are pumping away from the refineries and U.S. exports of refined petroleum products hit an all time high last year. Who is to say that Canada will not be exporting their tar sand oil by way of Louisiana?

By shipping the oil by rail, multiple local destinations and refineries for U.S. consumption could be more likely. To me, that translate into more U.S. jobs and should be encouraged, yet from the candidates and even the administration officials, we hear nothing.

Does anybody else have something to add?

Monday, October 8, 2012

93% Say A Plan Does Not Exist

Did you know that there is a company with a specialty in infrastructure strategy and product development on a global scale? No, they are not located in Lexington nor are they planning to move here, but the fact that they exist encourages me. That means that someone is looking out for the built environment of the facilities that connect us or enable us to connect with others.

CG/LA Infrastructure, Inc., which has been around for 25 years and is considered by some to be an industry leader, has just released their latest survey on infrastructure priorities in America. The survey questions were asked of high level executives from all regions and disciplines of the building industry. So, were their conclusions surprising to most folks? Maybe not.

93% believe that the US has no overall infrastructure plan. Wow, that is not news to just about everybody.

Why is it that when we have such huge systems as the Interstate Highways, the national power grid, massive pipeline connections for both oil and natural gas, multi-state water supply lines for our larger cities and even our renewed and growing freight rail network, there is NO overall plan to coordinate them? Do the systems not compliment each other as a whole?

Without a plan there seems to be “…potential for disaster at every turn." as one executive put it. As we have seen in California in the last few weeks, just a small number of minor inconveniences to the petroleum refining system have caused huge headaches for motorists of that state and for many others. A small “glitch” in one system can be magnified through the interdependence of other systems.

57% of respondents encourage public-private partnerships as an important action which can be taken to solve our present situation. 47% favor increasing the gas tax, which has not increased since 1993 and now buys about half of what it did then in infrastructure improvements. (Very politically unpopular) 44% mention the creation of a national infrastructure bank which in this political landscape of gridlock, both in Washington and around the country, may be extremely difficult to do.

In terms of highest or above-average priority for infrastructure investment, it should surprise no one that 79% list our nation’s bridges as needing repair. There is a growing list of sub-standard bridges right here in Fayette County and Central Kentucky. Transportation for America has a map which shows some of the worst. Water and waste-water systems are also high on this list. Our own experience with the EPA Consent Decree stands in the bright spotlight as evidence of this national need. We are not alone in neglecting things which we cannot see yet rely upon so much on a daily basis.

Two-thirds of the respondents mentioned highways as needing more funding, and perhaps they do, but we are already spending massive amounts on soon to be out-dated or obsolete highway projects. If we were to limit our thinking to just this element, could it be that in our desires for high gas mileage and the thrill of driving the open road has left us with clogged roadways and no way of funding improvements? I wonder if those who are able to afford the high mileage auto and live the furthest form their work are the same ones demanding more and better highways.

And how do you think that they felt as to the satisfaction with federal government's role in infrastructure development? 93.5% think that federal government's handling of infrastructure is a job which needs improvement (an understatement?) or just plain poor (abysmal may be a better assessment). Just what is it that we want the federal government to do? Is it government’s job to identify the shortcomings in infrastructure and repair them or should they guide the planning phase of facilities repair? Either way this seems to smack of “big brother” control or influence which our fiercely independent residents would balk at when it comes time to pay the tab. I can hear some of my friends now crying out that private industry can do it cheaper and better than government and yet private industry does not do it because the return on investment is not there.

Shorter approval processes and enabling legislation to allow private sector investment were cited as actions which could be taken to aid the necessary repairs and expansion work. I could assume that faster approval times will indicate a much more lax regulatory environment in which the private sector may reap higher profits yet result in a familiar product. The electric grid and the oil/gas pipelines which need the repair are presently in private hands, are they not. Many of them do not have the best track records in safety and environmental concerns, which may be the way that we got into this shape in the first place.

Government, and especially the Federal government, cannot be solely blamed for the pipeline leaks or the refinery fires and outages. The rail industry, despite its governmental regulations, is again growing and expanding, in major part with private dollars and an improving safety record. The electric grid, as robust as it may seem, is still a delicate lacework which is very much vulnerable to the whims of nature and the evil intentions of terrorists both foreign and domestic.

Remember still that this survey was of the high level executives who are concerned with major elements of life as they know it. What about the portion of citizens who are less than privileged and barely above the government's guidelines of poverty or those who are directly in poverty. What infrastructure is required for them to live a better life and how much do these “high level”executives concern themselves with the systems designed strictly for them?

There was a passing reference to multi-modal systems as associated with freight rail, but no mention of public transportation either locally, regionally or nationally. Should there be a 'potential disaster at any turn' as we have seen predicted above, what back-up (or possibly redundant) system will be available to aid in restoring normalcy? The disruption of oil/gas flow can upset just about all of the Interstate travel and the airlines could not mobilize enough to compensate and travel by rail would be non-existent even though it is the most efficient of the three. The destruction of a few major air control centers will hobble the airline industry, more-so internationally than cross-country, with resultant slowdowns of service.

On the local level, a robust public transportation system would save more than enough fuel to weather an extended slow down. Regional rail systems could suffice for the lack of highway and truck capacity for some freight deliveries. Regional and local farming should sustain the populace until new systems can be put in place. An ultra reliable water supply will prove extremely valuable.

93% of the survey respondents believe that the US has no overall infrastructure plan. I know that we have no real local plan. We have a response plan which may work for he short term, but a plan to rebuild our systems should something happen disastrously or they wear out incrementally, I do not believe exists.

I do believe that one should be developed.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Uncover Another Downtown Stream

I have been spending some time researching the origins of local street names and some of them are really fascinating. Some are fairly simple to deduce while others have a hidden back story and some have no apparent rhyme or reason. One of those in the Ashland Park area is Ridgeway Road.

I am aware that a majority of the Ashland Park subdivision is within the Town Branch watershed, along with the early portion of Chevy Chase and the shopping center. At first I wondered if Ridgeway was placed along this high ground atop the ridge (if you could really call it that). That honor goes to Chinoe Rd, although the actual high points is east of that, which is two intersections east of Ridgeway.

This ridge and the direction of water flow from it brought to mind another question that has been vexing me for some time. The natural westward flow from the Chinoe/Fontaine intersection is toward the Ashland Estate house and through the present day Slashes Road median. On the original concept drawings for the subdivision development, Slashes and the natural water feature's intersection with the Tates Creek Road (now called High St.) are shown as a design element of an entry to the residential area.

The stream, at this point, still carries a substantial amount of water since there are two large diameter storm drainage pipes and culverts built into the foundation of the Chevy Chase Plaza to handle it. Does it match the flow of Town Branch is a good question, but they are both underground.

If this stream was at the surface, it would flow through the parking lot of the Town & Country apartments, under South Ashland Ave and behind the Kroger store before roughly paralleling Euclid Ave. It would bisect the blocks of Marquis, Park and Oldham Avenues, pass under Woodland Ave, follow the rear lot lines of Rose Lane and enter the University campus.

Before the University of Kentucky acquired the present campus, the property was a city park and fairgrounds, with many pathways and a water feature – a stream. The stream would pass between what is now the Singletary Center and the Fine Arts building, pick up inflow from Maxwell Springs, under a portion of the original Stoll Field, the student center and South Limestone. The parking structure, the Donaldson building, the stream generating plant and some of the Reynolds building property are all in the path of this waterway

On the west side of South Broadway, it appears that the stream has long been put into a pipe underground as it does not show up on the Sanborn fire insurance maps of 1907. Could this waterway have been covered over before Town Branch? I doubt it, but the 1886 Sanborn map does show a surfaced Town Branch as does the 1890 version.

A large, double box culvert runs under Davis Bottom and the present Southend Park, just showing enough of it to make a pavement for Byars Ave (off McKinley St), then through the Irishtown area around the Driscoll St passing of the railroad track. It finally empties into the Town Branch where the Norfolk-Southern crosses both Manchester St. and the Corman tracks.

I have never seen a name for this waterway. Some maps just call it a “drainage ditch” and many of the early Lexington maps do not recognize it at all. The 1912 map drawn by J. T. Slade is probably the only one which depicts the total stream length.

It has just as much history associated with it as Town Branch, short of having a town plat based upon its path for a short section. It has been impounded on several occasions for uses both social and commercial, as many a baptism took place in the pond behind the steam mill on Bolivar and more than one college boy took his girl out for a boating beside Buell Armory.

I also wonder how the kids in the neighborhoods from Ashland Park to the University would had enjoyed a surface stream to play in (Probably as much as the ponds of Clifton Heights). Would the neighborhood streets south of Euclid be cul-de-sacs if they had left the stream alone?

With all of the talk about re-surfacing the Town Branch and a call for designs, I would not even suggest a similar treatment here, I just thought that I would “uncover” another downtown stream.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Just Add Kids?

I heard it again today. It was during the panel discussion put on by the Downtown Lexington Corp. which was to feature the 6 finalists of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd district races. The thing is, one of them did not show up.

Most of the comments were very positive about downtown and how we needed to continue to plan for the economic development and a strong need for jobs. But I also heard the quiet cry for more family oriented facilities like restaurants and such. It was like families want to live downtown but not as it is today – or how it is being planned for by today's planners.

We can look at our successes, like Thursday Night Live, and how well they have grown in just a few short years but some families have begun avoiding the Pavilion because it has become so large. The crowd of young professionals out for an early beginning to their weekend of drinking can erode the feeling of festival that many young parents want to ingrain in their kids.

The number of new, trendy restaurants which have opened seem geared toward the single/dating young professionals or the more refined tastes of the upper echelon from the 02 zipcode or horse country. Few of them would accept the “wander around he table” child which frequents an Applebee's or Texas Roadhouse franchise. Why cannot some of those parents find a suitable dining experience in the downtown scene. (OK, I don't want to eat near this kind of action either.)

Family oriented recreation come to downtown at various times through the year, like the Ringling Brothers Circus or Disney on Ice, but the normal, run of the mill, child friendly activities are rare. The special events will draw from communities other than Lexington, but day to day stuff – not so much.

Finally, and maybe the most troubling, there are no new residential units designed for the family of four in which a couple can live with their kids. The latest units are designed with young professionals in mind but not families. The common mantra is that “families don't want to live downtown” and that is not just applicable to Lexington.

According to Brent Toderian, a Canadian planner, “The truth is that many downtowns are currently not great places to raise families, because they are not designed to be. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. A city gives up on kids downtown, as does the home-building industry, so no one designs and plans for them... ...Most importantly, no homes built that could actually fit a family. Perhaps a couple, but as soon as baby comes, they start planning the move. This perpetuates the theory that families would never want to live downtown.”

Do we want a vibrant, lively, complete downtown? If so, then an addition of children to the mix of seniors and young professionals(both singles and couples) will support a broader local economy and a safer community. These families will need certain support facilities in order to make it work; child-care, and nearby schools initially, then family appropriate retail and recreation and then the all-important family sized residential units.

I may be wrong, but I feel that the on-going efforts to put on event after event in an attempt to draw families to downtown would be easier if some of them lived “right around the corner”.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Second Sunday Approaches Again

Well, Park(ing) Day did appear to be a success despite the lack of local press. Several local groups participated as well as some businesses. I am still disappointed that they did not commandeer the parking spaces for the full day, as they do in most cities. I did see the Mayor out getting his “photo ops” along with several other candidates for office this fall.

Our next big community gathering looks to be the annual Second Sunday health initiative, where we close a portion of roadway to auto traffic and allow human powered activity. That is just 2 weeks away and I have heard very little about it.

The local Second Sunday group does have a new web page and a Facebook listing , but what struck me the hardest was that they are not closing a roadway to auto traffic this year. They will be using a presently dedicated pedestrian facility – The Legacy Trail. This does not call attention to the need to get out of your car nor to the restrictions of auto movements. This year's event fails to make whatever happens to be newsworthy.

Is it possible that what started four years ago, with such promise and fanfare that it spread statewide very quickly, has died a typical bureaucratic controlled death? Could that be why our friends over in Louisville are pushing for a non-government sanctioned event (cycLOUvia) to take place on one of their primary arterial streets – Bardstown Rd.?  I do wish them luck in raising the funds in the next tow weeks.

The great thing about Second Sunday this year is that it will be after a road football game ( I came close to calling it a loss) and two days after the Midnight Madness for the basketball fans. Why could Euclid Ave/Avenue of Champions not be closed and bookended by the commercial spots of South Lime and Chevy Chase for refreshments after the festivities?

I think that the citizenry of Lexington has again failed to build upon a reasonable foundation. The question is - why?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Just One Day Left

Tonight is Wednesday Sept. 19, 2012 and it is two days before this years PARK(ing) day.  I reminded you of this some months ago in the hopes that someone would look into the subject a little farther and maybe organize a local effort.

Well, it may have worked - somewhat.

At first, I thought that I would keep harping on the subject but then found that very few of you will give any response.  Then I just sat back to see if any effort would come forward.  (Crickets)

It was by chance that I followed up on one of the referring links to my blog, that I saw an entry on the Bluegrass PRIDE calendar of their participation in a local (PARK(ing) day event.  That calendar links back to a post from 2011, but it is for this year's event.  I was now on the chase to see who was behind this year's effort.

A simple Google check revealed the the Fayette Alliance was also participating this year and that there was an organizing meeting held in August.  Very quietly held to be truthful.  The Kentucky Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects in partnership with the University of Kentucky Landscape Architecture Program is listed as the lead organizer yet a visit to either of their websites showed no mention of this year's event or even that such an event existed until the end of August.  A co-sponsor, The Lexington Art League, also has no mention of it on their website though they are listing the Gallery Hop and pARTy which they are conducting at Cheapside on the same evening.

It is looking to be a well-kept secret here in Lexington.  Our friends over in Louisville have been tweeting about it for months.  Here, I still hear crickets.

Last year, there were 162 cities participating, many with full government support and over 900 temporary parks set up for the day - the whole day - for which the fed the meter faithfully.  Lexington's event is for the hours of 4 until 8 p.m., just four measly hours.  Many cities had several locations around town but ours will be solely along W. Short Street near Cheapside.

I sincerely hope that this event will gather some attention from the press and particularly from the City.  I would like to see the Parking Authority get behind this, even to the point of involving the design studios of both our universities as well as the landscape architects in training.  I would propose that at least one park(ing) spot be placed in each district and even local voting enabled.

What I don't understand is why we are lagging behind.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Hotel Could Lead To Transformation

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.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Un-intended consequences?

“Un-intended consequences”

These words are usually spoken when an action, taken for very good reasons, is responsible for a debilitating harm done to a minor portion of those affected by the action. It is always nice to see it when those actions actually help that minor portion.

I don’t think that I have been shy in my outspoken criticism of the downtown circulator “trolley” and it does look like some of the suggestions that I made have been incorporated into the current routes, especially the Green Route. I am glad to see that many more of the local businesses have embraced the service and that Lextran has responded in such a positive manner. This service has had a much bigger impact than the initial downtown concept ever imagined

As I understand the original concept, the circulator was to enable those on the farthest edges of downtown to get to the center of activity and back to their offices with enough time to actually eat or shop during lunchtime. Evening activity was for downtown residents to traverse empty city blocks from housing to the nightlife and back safely. Though these are still of concern, they seem to be more minor today.

Today, we not only can get from one end of downtown to the other but also just a bit farther out and hit a little bit more shopping, dining and nightlife. I have seen and heard of many uses for the circulator since the routes expanded but I have not read any hard figures of ridership. Hopefully these will be forthcoming.

I have heard from my friends at West Sixth St Brewing, that quite a number of their patrons are arriving by ”trolley” since it eases the parking situation and the risk of driving while intoxicated. This will work to their advantage if those folks are coming from the Aylesford – Bell Court area and not just downtown.

But this is a two-way benefit. There are also folks from the Coolavin apartments just next door to West Sixth’s taproom who are making their way to the Kroger store on Euclid and coming home with the groceries for the week. In an area that has been identified as a “food desert” this access to fresh food without carfare is a win.

Coolavin is not the only example of this. The circulator travels past other assisted living facilities downtown so I doubt that this activity would not go on there also. Mrs. Sweeper and I watched as two ladies made their way from the Christian Church facility on Short St to the designated stop just to ride around town on a warm summer evening. The simple pleasures of life know no age limits.

So far, this phenomenon exists on the Green Route which cycles between the affluent neighborhoods near Chevy Chase and the resurgent commercial parts of Jefferson St. The Blue Route, running between the two University campuses, sees some mixing of the student bodies but mostly just due to their choices of dining and drinking locations. The other neighborhood residents do not tend to use the service much.

I believe that none of this was intended by those who arranged to fund the operation just a few years ago. Who could have thought that things would change this much? And does this mean that the local businessmen, who banded together to promote their downtown businesses, and now see as many or more folks leaving the downtown confines for other businesses, could give their support? I suppose so, but I hope not. If so, then the additional beneficiaries will need to stand up and continue this proven success.

I also believe that if it works in the downtown, then it can be successful in the subdivisions too, if done right.

If you have any thought on this, I would appreciate hearing them.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Missing, But For How Long?

Taking care of getting a Henry Clay statue for downtown could be a simple task if.  If we had a more motivated citizenry.  A citizenry not focused on letting the government do all the fund raising and arranging of the details.  Or maybe a government which could stay on task for more than an administration's four year term.

From what I can tell the other two monuments were funded by single minded groups and focused fund raising, some things that I find in short supply these days.

Or at least I thought so until today.

How many of us remember when they removed the Skuller's clock from Main Street during the streetscape work?  I, like many others I guess, thought that we may have seen the last of this old beauty or that it would end up in the History Museum like so many other relics.

I was there when they removed it and took the photo to the left.  I will be there when they reinstall it.

I heard today that the necessary funds were raised and repair of the timepiece is nearly complete.  Soon I hope to see some movement to prepare the base in the sidewalk and a triumphal ceremony of re-dedication and this side of the block's street work will be done.

The 21c hotel and a bit of facade work on the Odd Fellows Hall building and this block will be primo, well except for the "blue ghost".

Keep your eyes peeled for this exciting event.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Yes, Something Is Definitely Missing

After my last post I did receive many comments, which I published, and a number from friends verbally.  To you all, I say thank you.

Other than the comments idea, I have really noticed that something is indeed missing from downtown.  I have asked some friends about it and they agree, it IS missing.  It is not something that we all knew where it was and now it is gone, but something that has not been there for more than a century.

I have been drawn to the Courthouse Square for as long as I have been working downtown.  There is something about it that just keeps bringing me back.  I think that it is the monuments and the people that they represent that start to bring history alive for me.  The trees and the fountains(even when they didn't work) helped make the place livable and though they are now gone I still go back for the history.

It was November of 1887 that the people of Lexington unveiled a statue honoring John C. Breckinridge, the youngest Vice-President in American history.  He was placed right in the middle of Cheapside, whether it be a park or a parking lot, and only recently was moved to make way for the pavilion.

October of 1911 saw the displaying of the statue honoring Gen. John Hunt Morgan and whether or not you can get past the anatomically inaccurate depiction of his steed "Bess", it is still a grand statue.  It proudly sits on the courthouse lawn just a few blocks from the family home and hails the love which he had for the Southern cause.

Elsewhere around town, there are other signs and plaques which tell the tales concerning these two men.

Now, I ask you, with the newly opened Henry Clay Public House overlooking the old court house and the restored Henry Clay law office just up Mill Street, and the former location of the Henry Clay High School about a mile out Richmond Road, and the legendary "Ashland estate" even farther out, are we not missing something?

This city has made a big deal about Henry Clay and everything connected with him for a good long time, yet the one public statue that we have of him is stuck in the cemetery, high on a pedestal, where nobody can appreciate it.  Why is that?

This whole idea struck me when I saw this photo a few weeks ago.  How does New Orleans have a Henry Clay statue at ground level and we don't?  How could they have had one since 1890 and we don't?

I really do think that something is missing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is Something Missing?

I began this blog nearly four years ago.  Somewhat in the hope of getting my thoughts of what is happening in Lexington out there and partially at the urging from Mrs. Sweeper, to put together information on Lexington's development history.  Mrs. Sweeper is hoping for a book on the subject but I'm not so sure that I can do it.

I have left my comments on things on many forum threads concerning Lexington like Skyscraper City's and CityData's and not always to the appreciation of the other forum members.  It took several years for them to see that I was leaning in a right direction.  It is that back and forth postings of those forums that I miss in this blog.

I also leave comments on the blogs of others, usually if I believe that I can clarify some of the assumptions made by those outside the loop or correct some outright misconceptions.  I have not always been received warmly when I do that, but it is nice to see later that I am quoted or cited somewhere down the line.

That said, what I find missing from this blog is a sense of dialogue with my readers.  I know that they are out there.  You are out there aren't you?  I watch my stat counters every day and see where I have recurring reads from all over the country. I hear from some of my sources that they know of folks who read  and take note of the posts.  I even see that there are numerous reads from the LFUCG personnel, though it sometimes appears that I take them to task about things.  Still, anything resembling a dialogue is missing.

I have taken to asking questions in my entries, either to find out more information or to determine if there is a direction that the readers would like me to go.  Without feedback it is like listening to crickets chirp on a still night.

I am not asking for validation or condemnation, just dialogue.  Is it out there?