Lexington is home to more than 300,000 residents with strong suburban and urban neighborhoods. The economy has diversified from tobacco and manufacturing to focus on higher education, healthcare, construction services, financial services, advanced manufacturing, advanced agriculture and energy.
Despite the Great Recession, Lexington has seen continual investment over the past decade. Since 2003, our community has seen approximately 2500 new residential units added near downtown or the university. Presently, over $1B in construction has been announced or is underway between the downtown projects, University of Kentucky, and the Bluegrass Community & Technical College.
Significant investment has been made into public infrastructure and streetscape linking Main Street to the University of Kentucky. Recently, Triangle Park was significantly renovated primarily by private funds to meet the needs of the 21st Century. The 5/3 Bank Pavilion has transformed a sleepy park into a permanent home for the Kentucky Farmer’s Market and regular evening and weekend special events. This investment anchored the reinvention of the Cheapside area from store-front professional offices to a restaurant district. The entrepreneurial spirit of the district caught the attention of the award-winning 21c Museum Hotel, which opened in the first quarter of 2016.
Cheapside is just one of eleven entertainment and retail districts that have emerged in recent years to enhance the commercial landscape in downtown Lexington. Because of our tight-in geography and connectivity, there is a variety of residential options within a short walk, bike, or drive of these districts, giving Lexington a small-town feel with the amenities of a larger city. While the culinary arts have led the way, we are seeing new activity in the office and residential sectors as well in these emerging districts.
As we look ahead, the LDDA continues to work to drive investment into our university city by promoting smart planning, improved public space, and championing catalytic projects.
As part of an initiative to promote livability, Lexington is finalizing plans to convert some of our one-way streets to two-way and to add pedestrian improvements to our downtown arterials. We plan to undertake multiple pilot streetscape projects that allow us to test and refine improvements before making them permanent. Lexington is also putting together plans for a 2.5 mile linear park downtown the follows the historic path of the Town Branch Creek, now confined to an underground culvert. The Commons, as it is called, would provide the focal point for a county-wide trail and greenspace network.