Improving a Desirable Community
Building a desirable community requires policies to exceed all that Lexington has done so far. It requires raising the bar on both the public and private sector to deliver ever better outcomes. How Lexington chooses to do this is an important statement about the values of the community. The public has made it clear that they want more places and ways to connect with each other. As the global retail economy shifts and spaces are being reconceived, it is vital that Lexington make certain that those community preferences are considered and addressed. With this steady growth, policies must also ensure the economy does not leave lower income residents behind. Lexington’s citizens have also demonstrated that suburban expansion is not something they are interested in, and that Lexington’s natural and environmental resources are too important to consume for just more of the same. That conscious decision has a great impact on the policy needs of the future.
Where are we now?
Lexington is continually looking to improve the quality of life for its residents. Many cities do not have the same environmental and natural constraints as Lexington, and feel more empowered to continue the onward march of suburban expansion. Those challenges and constraints lend urgency to the need to be progressive and innovative, and call for leadership and vision by City officials to implement thoughtful solutions.
Connecting people by creating opportunities for Lexington’s citizens to interact with each other through better transportation infrastructure is a fundamental way to improve the overall community. A great effort has been expended so far to build out a robust trail systems for pedestrians and bicyclists. For example, the Town Branch Commons will serve as an economic engine to attract activity downtown, whether it be individuals or businesses. The dividends are realized through national attention and rankings in various livability categories. That type of economic investment must be continued, expanded, and enhanced to serve all Lexington residents.
Vision for Community
Imagine Lexington organizes the connectivity pillar around two central ideas: first, that appropriate transportation infrastructure should be dependent upon the intended uses and users; and second, that the design of the public realm include all users and modes of transportation, resulting in the creation of safe, efficient streets.
For decades, typical street design and development sites have been planned primarily with cars in mind, and little to no thought given to the people using the space. Imagine Lexington hopes to depart from this model and utilize a more multimodal approach, design for all users, and incorporate people-first and “Complete Streets” design. Good street design begets desirable land uses and active, vibrant spaces that add to quality of life. Elements including street trees, landscaping, shade, lighting, building scale and orientation, setbacks, and buffers from traffic contribute to that design quality.
At the most fundamental level, streets are public rights-of-way, and therefore are public spaces just like parks. They belong to everyone, not just automobile users.
Connectivity Policy #1 - Street Design by Place-Type
Designers of the built street environment must work to address the functionality of the space to ensure compatibility with surrounding land uses as well as transportation network connections. True multimodal street designs must acknowledge how adjacent land uses and building forms influence user perceptions, needs, and safety.READ MORE >>
Connectivity Policy #2 - Multimodal Streets for All Needs
A safe, fully-connected multimodal transportation system is not about moving vehicles, but about moving people and supporting the community by improving the quality of life for everyone. Achieving this goal requires all modes of transportation be considered equally during the design of rights-of-way.READ MORE >>
Connectivity Policy #3 - Multimodal Access Equitability
Mobility, social interaction, and physical activity enhance the quality of life of children, the aging population, persons with disabilities and the economically disadvantaged. The removal of barriers to independent travel reduces the need for more costly alternatives such as paratransit, private transportation services, and ‘hazard’ busing for school students.READ MORE >>
Connectivity Policy #4 - Provide Alternative Routes
Public surveys consistently identify traffic congestion as a major perceived concern in Lexington. In general, there is insufficient understanding by the public on how a more connected street network could help alleviate traffic congestion.READ MORE >>
Connectivity Policy #5 - Design Streets for the Desired Speed
In Lexington, speeding is a common complaint on wider streets, particularly those classified as collectors. These streets, which are wider by design, create faster vehicle speeds, regardless of the posted speed limit, due to the driver’s perception of a wide open space.READ MORE >>
Connectivity Policy #6 - Holistically Design Streets
The benefits of context-sensitive multimodal street design are many, but all encompass the responsibilities that designers ensure the health, safety and welfare of the people who will use this public space. These benefits include:
The safety of all users is a priority, whether they use a car, bus, bicycle, wheelchair, stroller, cane, or walk.READ MORE >>
There is no question that Lexington has long been attractive to creative professionals, largely due to the University of Kentucky. People unquestionably choose to live in the highest quality city they can afford. Therefore, creating quality places and capitalizing on Lexington’s natural and cultural advantages will produce significant economic development gains for the community. Big demographic shifts are driving the need for placemaking, as younger professionals are seeking active urban centers with access to quality transit, while the aging population is looking for easy access to amenities and activities.
The desired outcomes of the placemaking process are quality public and private spaces where people want to live, work, play, shop, learn, and visit, that complement each other in order to provide opportunities for social interaction. The public should be at the forefront of quality placemaking in their community, with their ideas and vision incorporated into the development plans that will drive implementation by the private sector.
Placemaking Policy #1 - Town Branch Commons Strategic Master Plan
Town Branch Commons will be a strip of Bluegrass running through downtown Lexington, roughly following the path of Town Branch, Lexington’s first water source. It will link the city's two major trails, Town Branch Trail and the Legacy Trail, to provide 22 miles of uninterrupted trail connecting downtown to the rural landscape.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #2 - Retrofit Incomplete Suburbs
For decades, Lexington embraced strong Euclidian zoning as a way to protect residential uses from the negative externalities of incompatible land uses. However, the market has seen a significant shift in residential consumer preferences, to which Lexington must respond and address with more modern zoning regulations.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #3 - Placemaking Design Standards
Having thoughtful design standards that are both flexible and responsive to diverse conditions is an essential component of moving toward a community filled with special places that are inviting and memorable.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #4 - Quality Useable Open Space
Open space is key for livable, sustainable communities. Whether a commercial development or residential neighborhood, how people will interact and move within a space needs to be considered. Successful, usable open space requires both private and public open space areas, designed and incorporated intentionally into the fabric of all development.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #5 - Review Regulations for Walkability
As was prominently discussed in Theme A, from a standpoint of developing great neighborhoods, there should be a focus on creating pedestrian-friendly streets and walkable blocks that make traversing them on foot a desirable activity.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #6 - Expansion Area Master Plan
The adoption of the Expansion Area Master Plan (EAMP) in 1996 created a framework for zoning and public infrastructure that was entirely new to Lexington. However, there has been a significant shift in development patterns and land costs since that plan was adopted.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #7 - Community Engagement on Development
When developers submit proposed developments, affected communities often hear about them for the first time through required public notice. Though some developers do communicate in advance, it does not always result in a productive conversation.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #8 - Tactical Placemaking Program
According to Placemaking as an Economic Development tool by Michigan State University in 2015, “Tactical placemaking” is a process of creating quality places that uses a deliberate, often phased approach to physical change or new activation of space that begins with a short-term commitment and realistic expectations that can start quickly (and often at low cost).READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #9 - Enhance Lexington's History
Lexington’s history can be told in many ways, but none better than to look around and see the cultural places, the important structures, and the natural landscapes that created this community. In order for the community to continue to move forward, there must be recognition of the importance of the past, ensuring that it lives on for future generations.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #10 - Public Art Easements
The creation of the adaptive reuse ordinance in 2008 was the first time the zoning ordinance considered any provision for public art on private property. Since that time, public art in Lexington has become a substantial part of the urban fabric.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #11 - Adaptive Reuse Ordinance
The creation of the Adaptive Reuse provisions in the Wholesale Warehouse (B-4) and Light Industrial (I-1) zones was a boon to Lexington’s economy. Adaptive reuse projects were typically located in areas where the original land uses were no longer desirable because of their lack of proximity to major travel corridors.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #12 - Underutilized Commercial Property
The goals and objectives of this comprehensive plan very plainly call for an intensification of the major corridors. Other proposed policies throughout the document have taken aim at the regulatory side of the equation. Another critical aspect of this policy framework is to engage the public along these corridors about these issues and what forms these intensifications may take.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #13 - Downtown Master Plan
The current Downtown Master Plan focused largely on specified projects and proposed infill locations. Since its adoption, the identified projects have largely either been completed or jettisoned for one reason or another. Further, the broad focus on infill lot identification did little to provide guidance on how those properties should develop.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #14 - Regional Park System
Regional parks can provide multiple community-wide benefits relating to public health, recreation and environmental protection. They serve the city as a whole, in comparison to smaller parks, which meet local needs.READ MORE >>
Placemaking Policy #15 - Develop a Citywide Festival
In late 2017, VisitLex shared their Destination Development Plan with the Council at a work session, and recommended the creation of a major festival. Many communities around the United States and the world have unique festivals that draw visitors from around the globe. READ MORE >>
Support services and infrastructure create a base for desirable communities to thrive. Education, healthcare, public safety, social services, and even the information network are among the facets of a community that can determine its success, long-term viability, and ability to retain and attract citizens.
Early in its formative years, Lexington has placed a priority on providing a quality education, coined the “Athens of the West” for its progressive culture and educational offerings. As Lexington grows, additional school facilities will be required to educate the 13,000+ new school-aged children expected in the next twenty years.
Taking care of the most vulnerable populations in Lexington is also a priority, and ensuring the needed social services are easily accessible and available to these citizens is key. Substance abuse and homelessness should be recognized and addressed head-on.
Another strong support element for Lexington is the healthcare industry, which has continued to see advancements in both the public and private realm.
Seniors will continue to be the fastest-growing sector of the population with support services for the aging population becoming more critical.
Support Policy #1 - Integrate School Sites with Neighborhood
Theme A (Growing Successful Neighborhoods) highlights the large role that design plays in successful neighborhoods, whether it be on a large or a small scale, and Lexington’s schools are no exception. The design and integration of schools into the surrounding neighborhood is as important to the desirability of an area as is the design, layout and architecture of the streets and residences.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #2 - Natural Components in School Sites
With many Fayette County schools due for expansion and/or renovations in the coming year(s) and the additional group of new schools slated for construction, consideration must be given to the significance of site design that extends beyond the building and into the natural landscape that immediately surrounds the property.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #3 - Wireless Communications Network
In the last several Comprehensive Plans, as well as in the Rural Land Management Plan, the importance of wireless communication has been recognized as integral to the safety and welfare of the community – in both the Urban Service Area and the Rural Service Area.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #4 - Equitable & Robust Healthcare
The healthcare industry is one of Lexington’s primary economic drivers, because it is a hub for medical services of all levels – from clinics and doctor’s offices to hospitals and the regional trauma center at Chandler Medical Center.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #5 - Social Service Equitability
The typical community facilities that serve Lexington-Fayette County, including libraries, schools, fire and police stations, sanitary sewers and stormwater facilities, have been addressed in planned documents and discussed over the course of many decades.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #6 - Multimodal Access to Services & Facilities
While connectivity and accessibility are important for all places within the community, they are especially vital for the places that provide services to our more vulnerable populations. A great many people that require social services rely on alternative forms of transportation aside from single-occupancy vehicles..READ MORE >>
Support Policy #7 - Support High Speed Internet
Quality and dependable high speed internet is vital to top-tier businesses, small entrepreneurs, and private personal device users alike. As of late 2017, the Council voted to approve a 10-year franchise agreement to MetroNet, a company new to the Lexington market, to provide gigabit speed internet service.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #8 - Quality of Life for Seniors
As increasing numbers of “Baby Boomers” choose to the leave the workforce, the need for meaningful social interaction opportunities for seniors will be increasingly important. The Lexington Senior Center and its three satellite sites (Charles Young Center, Bell House, and Eldercrafters at the Black and Williams Center) serve residents of Fayette County 60 years and older.READ MORE >>
Support Policy #9 - Accessible & Affordable Housing
The “baby boom” generation has historically not conformed to status quo; instead, this group has been trailblazers for the types of social change that tend to give the individual more autonomy in all things. For instance, this group changed the way childbirth was perceived.READ MORE >>