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Adaptive Reuse

Promote the adaptive reuse of existing structures.

Structures often outlive the function that they were built to serve, and there is nothing new about stabilizing and rehabbing an old structure; however, under modern Zoning Ordinance provisions, refitting an old building for a new use is often problematic, particularly given the existing suburban parking requirements. The most drastic examples of this in Lexington were in the older industrial areas located within the defined Infill & Redevelopment Area.

Historically, major employers wanted to be near railroad access and housing that would allow their employees to walk to work, which is in contrast to more recent suburban-style priorities of having easy highway access and separation from residential properties. Many older industrial buildings nationally have become highly underutilized, due to the need for most new industrial uses to locate in large buildings that are more cost-effective when built new, with better access to transportation corridors. Several small users could utilize the abundant vacant square footage, but a common problem was that the combined parking requirements of several small users could rarely be met onsite, or even in the general vicinity, without major demolition to provide new surface parking lots.

In 2012, the city partnered with the developers of the Distillery District and National Avenue to pass a first-of-its-kind Zoning Ordinance provision that would allow flexible uses and lower parking standards, providing a type of redevelopment flexibility second only to the core downtown zones. From inception, the adaptive reuse provisions of the Zoning Ordinance were designed to further the Goals and Objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, promoting the sustainable practice of reusing existing buildings, minimizing the need, in some cases, for new construction. The provisions were written with large-scale corridor redevelopment in mind, allowing phasing of the development to occur, recognizing that large-scale redevelopment projects rarely happen overnight. Since the adoption of the new regulations, these Adaptive Reuse Projects have generally been successful for large-scale redevelopment - with some unintended negative consequences, such as the lack of options for multimodal access, resulting in overcrowded parking.

It is time to revisit this ordinance and strengthen it to achieve the current Goals and Objectives of the Comprehensive Plan, ensuring that adaptive reuse projects enhance their surrounding neighborhoods, provide more opportunities and options for a livable and walkable environment, and become anchors for re-investment in existing neighborhoods. A possible approach to strengthen the adaptive reuse provisions is to create a context- sensitive design methodology, with differing guidelines for large corridors and individual projects; and, perhaps, the ability to apply the adaptive reuse principles to properties other than industrially-zoned areas.

Action Item(s)

  • Update the Adaptive Reuse provisions in the Zoning Ordinance.

Goals and Objectives

GOAL A1: Expand housing choices

Objective: A1a

Pursue incentives and regulatory approaches that encourage creativity and sustainability in housing development.

Objective: A1b

Accommodate the demand for housing in Lexington responsibly, prioritizing higher-density and mixture of housing types.

Objective: A1d

Create and implement housing incentives that strengthen the opportunities for higher-density and housing affordability.

GOAL A2: Support infill and redevelopment throughout the Urban Service Area as a strategic component of growth.

Objective: A2a

Identify areas of opportunity for infill, redevelopment, adaptive reuse, and mixed-use development.

Objective: A2d

Implement innovative programs, such as the public infrastructure fund and land bank programs, to facilitate sustainable development, including, but not limited to, housing, affordable at all income levels, and commercial and economic activity.

GOAL A3: Provide well-designed neighborhoods and communities.

Objective: A3a

Enable existing and new neighborhoods to flourish through improved regulation, expanded opportunities for neighborhood character preservation, and public commitment to expand options for mixed-use and mixed-type housing throughout Lexington-Fayette County

Objective: A3c

Minimize disruption of natural features when building new communities.

GOAL B2: Reduce Lexington-Fayette County’s carbon footprint.

Objective: B2c

Provide incentives for green building, sustainable development, and transit-oriented development with civic agencies leading by example through the use of green building standards.

GOAL C1: Support and showcase local assets to further the creation of a variety of jobs.

Objective: C1e

Encourage developers of government-funded or subsidized projects to employ residents in the vicinity.

GOAL E1: Uphold the Urban Service Area concept.

Objective: E1a

Continue to monitor the absorption of vacant and underutilized land within the Urban Service Area.

Objective: E1b

Ensure all types of development are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable to accommodate the future growth needs of all residents while safeguarding rural land.

Objective: E1c

Emphasize redevelopment of underutilized corridors.

Objective: E1d

Maximize development on vacant land within the Urban Service Area and promote redevelopment of underutilized land in a manner that enhances existing urban form and/or historic features.