Public Weighs in on Distillery District

Mar 22, 2012

Proposals to revitalize Lexington’s Distillery District were discussed at a public meeting Wednesday night at the McConnell Springs Education Center.  A team of landscape architects and engineers discussed a number of structural, and aesthetic changes that could be introduced to the area comprising Manchester Street, Oliver Lewis Way and Forbes Road.

Chase Wright, an engineer with Strand Associates says those who attended expressed a number of concerns.

“I got quite a few questions from the area residents, just wanting to understand how this may impact their facilities and properties, as well as park space and where that focus is going to be.  Their feedback is going to be crucial in making an informed decision for the city.”

Clete Benken with the Cincinnati- based landscape architecture firm MSI KKG, shared his team’s transformative vision for what was once a thriving commercial sector.

“The overarching goal is to redevelop the corridor, to restore the corridor.  So, when you start thinking about the downtown, as opposed to the distillery district, the downtown has had continual investment over the years.  You see streets and sidewalks, and sewers and electric utilities re-invested in from time to time.  This area hasn’t seen a lot of that.”

Reaction to the designs were mixed with some expressing concerns about the cost, as well as possible displacement of current residents and businesses.

One of the biggest critics was Roland Taylor, a long time resident of the small borough of Irishtown.

“When I see the Distillery District…the Distillery District is already part of a community and the name of that community is Irishtown.  And what I fear I’m seeing and am very concerned with is that the name of Irishtown is trying to be erased.”

Benken says the long range plans include creating bike and pedestrian lanes that could, at some junctures, run along Town Branch Creek.  The paths could then serve as connectors to rows of mixed use buildings and public gathering spots.