LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 2, 2018) – Mayor Jim Gray broke ground on Town Branch Commons today, a project six years in the making.
Designed by an internationally recognized landscape architect, winner of highly competitive federal and state grants, part trail, part signature downtown park, Town Branch Commons will wind through downtown, stretching two miles, from just west of Rupp Arena to the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden on the east end.
“Lexington is celebrating the Fourth of July this year by officially breaking ground on a project that will light up our economy, our downtown and our entire City,” Mayor Jim Gray said.
Work on Town Branch Commons began in 2012, with Gray’s decision to hold an international design competition. The winner, SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, is led by Kate Orff, winner of a MacArthur Genius Grant.
“This is a pivotal moment for Town Branch Commons, a project that expresses the identity of the Bluegrass region and brings it downtown,” said Gena Wirth, who is working on Town Branch Commons for SCAPE. “This is a 21st Century connected landscape system— a linear open space that links communities, creates high-quality public space, and celebrates the presence of the water and limestone formations that have shaped the fabric and history of the city. We are thrilled to be working with so many dedicated partners to make this collective vision a reality today.”
The trail, which follows along the path of Lexington’s original water source (Town Branch), won a $14.1 million federal TIGER Grant, plus $13.6 million in state and federal grants and loans. With a local investment of $11.8 million, the $39.5 million trail portion is fully funded.
“A strong infrastructure system ensures local and regional economic development,” said Congressman Andy Barr, an advocate for the TIGER funding along with Senator Mitch McConnell. “The Town Branch Commons project will do just that by enhancing Lexington’s connectivity, revitalizing the downtown area, and promoting safety for pedestrians and cyclists. I was proud my office was able to help secure $14 million in federal funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. I would like to thank the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, Mayor Gray, Allison Lankford and the Board of the Town Branch Fund, and all other stakeholders and private donors for their dedication in bringing this project to reality.”
Town Branch will link the City’s two major trails, Town Branch Trail and the Legacy Trail, giving Lexington 22 miles of uninterrupted bike and pedestrian paths, and connecting downtown to the rural landscape.
Town Branch Commons is a public-private partnership. The excitement around Town Branch has already attracted $6 million in private gifts for a new signature park. “That’s unprecedented for gifts to a parks project in Lexington,” Gray said. “Thanks to the donors and to the hard-working group that is designing a park that will be a destination and a sensation. It will have gravitational pull.”
Fund-raising continues for the $31 million park, planned next to the new convention center.
“As important as this park will be for our community’s health, economy, transportation, and recreation – Town Branch Park will be connecting something even more meaningful, our people,” said Ann Bakhaus, Town Branch Park Advisory Board chair. “The Park will bring together residents of all ages and backgrounds to interact with each other and meet new people.”
Work on the trail begins in the next few weeks with work on the sewers that will be under it, part of Lexington’s ongoing reconstruction of its sewer system. There will be lane closures along Main Street, Eastern Avenue, Short Street and Midland Avenue.
“The pain will be worth the gain,” Gray said. “Town Branch Commons will connect rural to urban; our history to our future; and park to park downtown. Great cities have great parks, and Town Branch Commons will have a lasting impact on our city and its citizens. It will be enjoyed by Lexington citizens for many generations to come.”