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February 5, 2013
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Firm selected to design Town Branch Commons, public park tracing path of historic stream

Plan integrates history, geology and ongoing development initiatives

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2013) — A New York landscape and architecture firm is the winner of an international competition to determine who will design Town Branch Commons, a new park envisioned for downtown Lexington.

The Town Branch Commons Design Competition solicited designs from some of the world’s best landscape architecture firms to design a public park downtown that follows the path of the historic Town Branch Creek that flows beneath Lexington’s streets. (Photo courtesy of WUKY.)

The Town Branch Commons Design Competition solicited designs from some of the world’s best landscape architecture firms to design a public park downtown that follows the path of the historic Town Branch Creek that flows beneath Lexington’s streets. (Photo courtesy of WUKY.)

SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE will design the long, serpentine park following the path of the historic stream. The firm’s plan integrates history, geology and ongoing development initiatives into a thread of new public spaces along the path of Town Branch as it weaves through downtown. Lexington was named on the banks of the creek in 1775.

“This plan has the extraordinary potential to call upon our rich, authentic history, and link our world-class rural landscape to our dynamic urban core,” Mayor Jim Gray said.

The Town Branch Commons Design Competition, presented by the Lexington Downtown Development Authority, solicited designs from some of the world’s best landscape architecture firms to design the park. University of Kentucky College of Design Dean Michael Speaks and Landscape Architecture Professor Ned Crankshaw have helped select five finalists in the competition. Twenty-three proposals were submitted.

SCAPE/LANDSCAPE’s goal is to create and organize dialogue about the built environment, to refine the definition of the public sector to include natural processes and wildlife habitat, and to cultivate an ethos of civic participation. The firm designed this plan for the BNMC Streetscape in Buffalo, N.Y. (Image courtesy of Downtown Development Authority.)

SCAPE/LANDSCAPE’s goal is to create and organize dialogue about the built environment, to refine the definition of the public sector to include natural processes and wildlife habitat, and to cultivate an ethos of civic participation. The firm designed this plan for the BNMC Streetscape in Buffalo, N.Y. (Image courtesy of Downtown Development Authority.)

SCAPE was chosen by a five-person jury, including architects, a developer, the director of an art museum and an editor of an architecture publication.

The jury was “inspired and excited by the breath of the designers’ vision, while we felt confident that they would be able to implement their plan,” said Aaron Betsky, director of the Cincinnati Art Museum, who chaired the jury.

“SCAPE is so thrilled to be a part of this exciting initiative to revive Town Branch, make new connections downtown, and improve the quality of life in Lexington,” said Kate Orff, founder of the firm. “We’ve been inspired by the realities and conditions on the ground and by the potential of water to inform the design of new urban landscapes.”

The firm looks forward to the opportunity to work with citizens and neighborhoods, she said.

Town Branch Commons was first conceived last year as part of the Arena, Arts and Entertainment District, which includes a plan to reinvent Rupp Arena. “The plan for Town Branch Commons is a long-range plan,” Gray said. “Getting our financial house in order comes first. That’s what we’ve been working on. But good plans are essential. That’s what this represents. We will need private funding sources. But it will happen. It’s just too compelling.”

The park will provide “a great reason to work downtown, move a business downtown, live downtown, visit downtown or have fun downtown. Other cities have done it with extraordinary results,” Gray said.

The winning design, along with the four other submittals, will be on display at the Downtown Arts Center, 141 E. Main St., through Feb. 22. The community is encouraged to visit any time or during Gallery Hop on Feb. 15 to see the concepts and give feedback. Over the next six months, the winning team will work with the Downtown Development Authority and the city to develop the concept. There will be several opportunities for the public to be involved in the planning.

For more information and updates throughout the master plan process, visit www.townbranchcommons.com.

Town Branch Trail

Town Branch Commons will be a long, serpentine park following the path of the historic stream through downtown Lexington.

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