Town Branch Commons is a public park that will follow the path of historic Town Branch Creek flowing beneath Lexington's streets. (Photo courtesy of WUKY)
A vote on the design of Town Branch Commons, a long, narrow park following the path of a historic stream in downtown Lexington, is set for Monday, Feb. 4, by the Downtown Development Authority Board.
The design will be the winner of a competition involving architects and designers from around the world.
“We invited firms to submit a design for the park, which will wind through downtown along the path of Town Branch,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “We were thrilled to receive interest from 23 outstanding firms and felt a design competition would give us an opportunity to consider a variety of ideas and to gather public input.”
Gray said Town Branch Commons 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.” Town Branch Commons will elevate local history — Lexington was founded on its banks at McConnell Springs.
A three-member committee including Michael Speaks, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Design, Ned Crankshaw, chairman of the UK Department of Landscape Architecture and Jeff Fugate, president of the Downtown Development Authority, whittled the list of 23 firms to five. The five are participating in a design competition.
The five firms are COEN+PARTNERS, Minneapolis; CIVITAS, Denver; INSIDE OUTSIDE: Petra Blaisse, Amsterdam; JDS, Copenhagen; and SCAPE / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE, New York. Each finalist will receive a $15,000 honorarium paid for with a private gift.
Design competition submittals are due Thursday, when design teams will visit Lexington for a jury presentation and to participate in various public events sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Gaines Center for the Humanities, UK’s College of Design and Department of Landscape Architecture, and the Fayette Alliance.
On Friday, Feb. 1, a five-member jury will select a winning design for Town Branch Commons. Jury members are Speaks, Crankshaw, Bradford McKee, editor, Landscape Architecture magazine, Holly Wiedemann, a local developer, and Aaron Betsky, director, Cincinnati Art Museum.
The winner will be submitted to the Downtown Development Authority Board, which will vote on the plan at a special board meeting at 3:30 p.m., Monday.
The public will have an opportunity to see the design right after the vote. All of the designs will be on display at the Downtown Arts Center City Gallery Feb. 4-22 including the Gallery Hop on Feb. 15. The Downtown Arts Center is located at 141 E. Main St.
Several events have been planned as part of the design competition:
• Discussion of “Landscapes of Confrontation” (contaminated sites), 7 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 30, Gluck Equine Research Center auditorium, 1400 Nicholasville Road, by Bradford McKee, editor, Landscape Architecture magazine.
• Lafayette Seminar in Public Issues, 11:30 a.m., Thursday Jan. 31, Hilary Boone Center, 500 Rose St. Speakers are local architect Van Meter Pettit and planner Stan Harvey. Sponsored annually by the Gaines Center for the Humanities at UK, this lecture will be an opportunity for Lexington community members, elected officials, and faculty and students to offer insights on the history of the Town Branch and examine large-scale projects from other cities and how they have been implemented. The Lafayette Seminar is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lunch is free and the event is open to the public. Seating is limited, reservations required. To reserve a seat, please email Gaines.Center@gmail.com or call 859-257-1537.
• “Design Adds Value to the Commons.” Five landscape architects discuss the importance of good design for downtown development, 4 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 31, Lexington Children’s Theatre, 418 W. Short St. The symposium, hosted by UK’s College of Design, will offer the public an opportunity to learn more about the participating design teams in the Town Branch Commons Design Competition. Team members will discuss a variety of projects. A question-and-answer session will follow presentations by the firms. Open to the public.
To learn more about these events, the participating firms, and the jurors click here for more information.
From the Office of Mayor Jim Gray