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Enhance Lexington's History

Honor Lexington’s history by requiring new development and redevelopments to enhance the cultural, physical, and natural resources that have shaped the community.

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.

Lexington and rural Fayette County have a rich and diverse cultural history that began before statehood. This heritage is evidenced in the natural environment of the County’s rural landscape and the built environment of its urban areas. The cultural landscape includes agricultural and horse farms, landscape features, barns, outbuildings, fences, and archaeological sites. Historic and architecturally significant buildings are important in that they create a unique place to live and work. A well-planned community incorporates both the new and the historic; a balance that attracts businesses, residents, and tourists who seek a unique environment. Historic properties and sites are resources that provide citizens not only with places to experience and enjoy, but also economic development and tourism opportunities.

The preservation of historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and other cultural resources provide benefits to the citizens that in many ways cannot be measured. These benefits include:

  • Sense of Place provides a visible symbol of our heritage, a connection to the past, and a source of pride. Historic buildings, neighborhoods, significant rural landscapes and other places have unique characteristics, define the community, and have qualities that are, in many cases, indefinable. These buildings, neighborhoods, rural landscapes and other places are resources that are important to protect and preserve.
  • Cultural Tourism, which includes historic, cultural, and preserved sites, is one of the major reasons that people travel to selected destinations. The rich historic and cultural heritage of Lexington includes a variety of sites making it a prime destination for cultural tourism.
  • Economic Benefits from historic preservation accrue in a variety of ways. Federal and State Historic Tax Credits may be available as an incentive for historic restoration and to offset some of the costs. Preserved buildings can be put to use as economic generators, for both public and private use, as the renovated Courthouse Square demonstrates.
  • Community Pride & Accomplishment are by-products of preservation efforts as citizens of the community become involved in projects that protect or enhance important symbols of their heritage.

Lexington has protected assets through National Register designation of historic districts (25), landmarks (3) and individually listed properties. Numerous other structures throughout the community have been voluntarily preserved, and recognized by the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation, a local non-profit organization that strives to protect, revitalize and promote the special historic places in our community in order to enhance the quality of life for future generations. Lexington designated its first local historic district in 1958, with the protection of Gratz Park, a small near-downtown neighborhood between West Second and West Third Streets. Since that time, 15 districts and two landmarks have been so designated, and are under the jurisdiction of the Board of Architectural Review. The districts are as follows: Ashland Park, Aylesford, Bell Court, Cadentown, Constitution, Elsmere Park, Fayette Park, Gratz Park, Mulberry Hill, Northside, Seven Parks, South Ashland/Central Avenue, South Hill, Western Suburb, Woodward Heights. (MAP TO FOLLOW). The two locally protected landmarks are Helm Place in the Rural Service Area and St. Paul A.M.E Church located on N. Upper Street near West Third Street.

The community has continued to designate local historic districts at the pace of about two per decade, and in recent years, even expanded the Western Suburb local historic district. Although local historic district designation is one way to protect historic structures and the neighborhoods that surround them, the community should continue to work to encourage preservation of structures that have value within the community, and to support adaptive reuse or incorporation of such structures into redevelopment projects. Consideration should also be given to existing historic neighborhoods that are adjacent to proposed development. Infill and redevelopment projects should take extra care to acknowledge the architectural character, materials, height and mass, scale and connectivity of historic neighborhoods, and create developments that enhance these areas.

A number of roadways throughout the community have been recognized for their cultural and scenic value. Such designation includes scenic byways, historic turnpikes, scenic roadways and corridors, and rural scenic roads. These corridors are a critical asset to the community’s aesthetic and branding as the Horse Capital of the World, and should continue to be protected through building setbacks, maintenance of stone fences and preservation of tree canopy, all of which add to the quality of these roadways and corridors.

Stone fences continue to be a resource along rural corridors, and even within the farms around the community. These limestone fences were built by hand, many by slaves, and have been used in new developments to create a connection to the past. Such fences are often on state rights-of-way and are expensive to maintain; however, stone fences have also been found within central Kentucky farms, and such fences should be identified and preserved because they are an important asset to the cultural history of the community.

Goals and Objectives

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 A4: Address community facilities at a neighborhood scale.

There are no objectives related to this policy that further this particular goal.

GOAL D3: Protect and enhance the natural and cultural landscapes that give Lexington-Fayette County its unique identity and image.

Objective: D3a

Protect historic resources and archaeological sites.

Objective: D3b

Incentivize the renovation, restoration, development and maintenance of historic residential and commercial structures.

Objective: D3c

Develop incentives to retain, restore, preserve and continue use of historic site and structures, rural settlements and urban and rural neighborhoods.