Sunday, December 7, 2014

Approach To Commonwealth's Image In The Coming Years

I, as many others as well, have noticed over the past few years that the University of Kentucky has greatly enhanced their sports facilities. The new softball field for the ladies and the new soccer complex along Alumni Dr brightly advertise the UK logo both day and night. And prior the this year's football season, the relocated tail-gating lot which cleverly hides an underground rainwater runoff control system was completed, but there is much more to do.

The City is currently in the process of constructing an enlarged and more modern senior citizens center on a portion of the Idle Hour Park property. This should allow the City to transfer, back to the University, the present site which they received in a land swap for the right-of-way of College View years ago.

From my memory, College View was a street of modest to small frames houses running from Lexington Avenue to Rose St. The present entry to the parking lot for the Joe Craft Center and the Coal Lodge is the sole remaining vestige of the this roadway. There was small confectionery store on the northwest corner with Rose and a storefront addition to a house anchoring the other end at Lexington Ave in my youth.

What I cannot recall is the section of deteriorating shotgun houses that lined Adams St, which paralleled College View on the south nor the ones which lined Euclid Ave. They were built when this area was developed as Adamstown and faced a city park. This city park was traded for the University's predecessor, the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College's, interests in Woodland Park The only remaining evidence that this street ever existed is the driveway along the south side of Blazer Hall and the access to the rear of the Papa Johns/Qudoba lot off of Rose St.

Concerning the little storefront at College View and Lexington Avenue, the Lafayette studios collection at the has a couple of images and the 1934 Sanborn Fire insurance map clearly shows a retail space. Owned by a man named Johnson, he merely called it Sampy's

In November of 1946, G.L.“Sampy” Johnson applied to the City and County Planning and Zoning Commission for a change in the zoning for 200 College View. The request was from a Residence “B” district to a Business “B” district and I can only assume that his reason was to make his existing store comply with the rules. The Commission's Zoning Committee also concurred and the item was moved to a public hearing.

Objectors at this hearing were led by Dr McVey, the University president, who “offered objections on behalf of the university -- not to the operation of a grocery store...” since the store served the existing residents, “but to the changing of the entire area as set out by this Commission because of the probability businesses being established there over which the University have no jurisdiction.

Strangely enough, in this time period the Planning Commission was of the habit (or proclivity) of suggesting and recommending additional properties besides the requested area. In this case they may have included the whole street but, since there is no attached map, the entirety is unclear. Was this the University using its influence beyond it's campus borders?

A Mr. H. B. McGregor also appeared before the Commission saying that he “objected to such change because he would dislike seeing any homes being torn down and converted or built into businesses.” An early preservationist obviously. Upon consideration of evidence the petition was refused.

I an only wonder how Mr McGreror felt just two years later when the University called upon the City to assist in clearing the “slums” of Adamstown and allow the school to erect their new sports arena, Memorial Coliseum on that spot. Dr McVey and his successors now had jurisdiction of the area.

What does this have to do with my opening remarks? Little more than that the University is not shy about using its influence to “improve” their jurisdiction's image, be it by removing outdated structures or skillfully landscaping its grounds as it sees fit. Of all the improvements around their part of Alumni Dr, the road itself is an aging (deteriorating) two lane facility for the most part and leads to what will be a “showcase” Commonwealth Stadium before next season.

When Commonwealth Stadium was planned in the early '70s, the University provided two access points on the southern boundary of its shrinking research farm. This road, connecting those two points, was labeled as “Farm Road D” and wound itself through the rolling fields. It looked to be a lot of pavement to only used for a few football games a year.

At this same time the City was wrestling with suburban traffic and looking to implement a long planned connector road between the Mt Tabor/Tates Creek Rd intersection and Rosemont Garden/Nicholasville Rd intersection. Envisioned in the 1930 Comprehensive Plan prior to any suburban development, to push through established neighborhoods as other communities were doing, Lexington found very stiff resistance.

Farm Road D provided a reasonable alternative in terms of traffic movement and allowed the contested connector road to be put to rest, except. Most of the non game day type traffic would be coming from the residents and taxpayers of the City, therefore the City should bear the cost of maintenance became the University's position. Therefore a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was hammered out and I believe is still in effect today.

Th MoU and the alignment of the roadway have impact on issues such as traffic control, snow removal, out of county emergency medical access and even the joint Arboretum venture which is so successful. What appears to not be covered is the now needed upgrade and landscaping of a primary approach to the SEC class (and pride of the Commonwealth) football stadium.

I realize that the Town-Gown discussions were primarily to bridge the gap from downtown to campus, but I hope that this is not too far afield to create a better image for our visitors and a point of pride for our residents. The impending shuttering of the existing senior citizens center will allow the final campus access point to be brought in line with the rest and reinforce the University's overall image.