Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eastern Kentucky's Agricultural Box

Last week, in an op-ed to the local paper, Bill Best wrote “When articles are written about Appalachia, the most frequently left-out words are "gardening" and "agriculture." Yet Eastern Kentucky was once self-sufficient in food production and could easily be again.” As true as that wording is, it is difficult to conceive that most people don't think that way at all. 

I have never thought of Eastern Kentucky as a hot bed of food production but the hill folk, from the settlers on forward had to feed themselves some way. I can also relate first hand that there are many fine cooks who have made their way out of the hills. Eastern Kentuckians have survived of much more that coal jobs.

There has been a lot of talks lately about what could or should be done to aide in the relief of the region's economic problems, but they all seem to center on incentives or developments which are generally better suited to urbanized areas. A large industrial park or an outlet mall style shopping center need both population density and transportation access to be successful. These are items that the area lacks.

While progress has been made in reclaiming many a strip mine site and the coal companies conducting “mountain top removal” are required to put things back to as “natural” as they can, preparing the land for agricultural production is not on anybody's radar. Neither the coal company's nor the local's, since Eastern Kentucky is not a “farming” area.

Best points out, correctly, that the necessary skill sets are not being handed down from the grandparents, who eked out a living on poor land, or the parents, many of whom could not wait to leave the area, or the education community, which is preparing our youth for global competition. The idea that having a place to call home and having it be able to sustain its residents simply escapes many of us these days.

If east coast investors were the foundation of the coal companies that caused such damage, could it be farm investors that will begin the turn around? A Lexington based company, American Farm Investors, has been purchasing farm properties in Central Kentucky, then utilizing Kentucky farmers and selling grain to Kentucky end-users. What would prevent a similar group of investors from making agricultural land out of reclaimed land?

It may be time to redefine the box that is the concept of Eastern Kentucky agriculture.

Friday, December 6, 2013

When Marketing Can Sacrifice Public Safety

I was talking to an infrequent reader the other day and she told me that the subjects of my quiz photos are often too difficult for her. I really do understand this but I just want to get some dialogue going. In the last quiz we can clearly see the beginnings of Todds Trace Apartments and the final interchange of New Circle Road being built in the late '60s.
It was on this same interchange ramp that I commented to Mrs. Sweeper, while we were out running errands, that the renovation of the apartments was looking quite good. Having watched the work on the old Sonnet Cove, now Lakewood Park, I know how much it has helped the neighborhood. I have posted earlier about how the Southland Christian Church should have taken this location and begun the transformation of the area not only physically, but spiritually. Alas, that did not happen.
Over the years, I have known friends and acquaintances who have lived in the varying iterations of the complex. From Todds Trace to Appletree and Saddlebrook (or as it became called, Saddle-dump) on down to its Pennington Place demise. The apartments and the neighborhood have not aged well. In my opinion, few of the developments done during the late '60s through mid-to-late '70s have fared well at all, if any.
Still, the renovation work does look good and Mrs. Sweeper and I have been discussing moving, now that our guys have graduated high school, entered college and we don't need to be within walking distance of Henry Clay. It was suggested that I take a look at the 300 At The Circle since the location is still close to work and the transit lines. Maybe we could stay there until we found a better house.
The web site  is beautiful, but most marketing web sites are well done to get you to look closer. What caught my eye was the mailing address of the apartments, 300 Quinton Ct. Could that be right? Quinton Court was the name given to the section of the Todds Road that had to be truncated when the KYDOT began upgrading Richmond Road nearly 30 years ago. Quinton Ct is a short cul-de-sac which basically serves one office building and back side entry of a restaurant.
I was also quite confused since the office building, on the east side of the road, is addressed as 120 Quinton and the apartments, on the other side of the street, is labeled as 300. I didn't think that it was possible to have even numbers on opposite sides of the same street. It certainly does not follow any type of local or national norm.
In 1902 the City of Lexington implemented a new addressing scheme which, among other things, established that even numbers be located on the South and East sides of streets and thoroughfares. Odd number would be on the North and West. It is simpler to do on a grid, or a modified grid, pattern of streets which was typical at the time. On curvilinear streets, it all stems from its beginning point and its general, overall direction. Roads like New Circle will play pure havoc with that rule.
During the past decade or so, Lexington has systemically attempted to correct any anomalies which may have developed between the former city and county governments and some just plain quirkiness out of the past. The stated intent was to aid the Enhanced 911 emergency response times. 300 Quinton Ct looks to be a new quirk.
Once again looking to the website, the page which directs you to apply and choose your desired apartment shows all of the access driveways connecting to Codell Dr and no possible access from Quinton Ct. The main entry to the clubhouse and pool area appears to be a security check point and come in off of Codell Dr. It is entirely possible that an access point can be created on the court, but that does not appear to be their intention. A quick look at the PVA site reveals an account for 109 Quinton Ct which correlates to the “Future Development” portion of their site plan. There appears to be NO official record of a 300 Quinton Ct in Fayette County records.
But wait, again the Internet to the rescue, on the page showing the location of the development is a link to Google Maps and the app to get directions. Google Maps does have 300 Quinton Ct but the source their data from many places. It is also ironic that Google will give you the Streetview of the area but the photos are nearly 2 years old and this property is not very appealing in those images.
It should be fairly obvious to all that the intent of this development's address is to remove any identity connection to Codell Dr as that street name carries much baggage. We have seen this in other sections of town in the past. In an effort to change the perceptions of possible tenants, Jennifer Ct was renamed to Eastwyck Ct and then renamed again to Meade Ct about 20 years ago. I don't think that the general impressions of that area have changed all that much. Making real change in a neighborhood takes much more than some slick marketing moves and I think that the church had the better shot at real change.
It may be that this is just a slick marketing ploy but the weak effort displayed by the website falls far short of the mark. If I have to do some sort of mental gymnastics to find the front door, be I a pizza delivery person or a visitor from out-of-town, then the thought of having a logical, standardized system is out the window. Will this also be necessary of first responders to the point of making it an issue of public safety?
I think I will have to tell Mrs. Sweeper that, as nice as it looks, to seek some other place. I think that she will agree.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Has CommerceLex Looked At This From Past Trips?

Lexington is repeatedly compared and contrasted with Madison, Wisconsin. Both are big, small towns with major universities. Both are also cities without an interstate highway slicing through town. In both cases it was a conscious decision to leave the interstate out.

What is different is that the local officials in Madison realized that their residents and visitors still needed to have local access. Madison's city planners began to plan for (and implement) a much more multi-modal transportation network. Those investments are still paying off.

When the attitudes about transportation and urban living shifted, as they have over the past decade, there was not a mad scramble get a solution in place. There were several options already available. Not so in Lexington, the attitudes are changing but the viable options are not there. 

The average Madison city resident drove 18 percent fewer miles in 2011 than in 2006 — from 8,900 miles down to 7,300. It would be nice to know the comparable statistic for the Lexington area. Bus ridership is up and I do see many more cyclists than I used to, but just imagine if we had the foresight that they displayed in Madison.