The last decade of Lexington has been one of fast-moving progress. Mayor Gray’s term as Mayor will end in January. His eight years in office have been marked by accomplishment and collaboration with our city government, taking on projects that will likely change the face of Lexington for the better.
At the groundbreaking ceremony for the much-awaited Lexington Center and Rupp Arena expansion and renovation, Mayor Gray drove home the importance of this progress. “This is all about quality of life, and quality of place. It’s about a powerful destination that will stimulate and activate our city in remarkable ways. It will add to our economy and our culture in ways we actually can not even imagine today, creating opportunities and jobs now and into the future. Build it, and they will come. Yes, by the thousands, and over time, by the millions.”
Ideas that have been discussed for years are solidifying in the heart of downtown Lexington, bringing commerce, beauty, entertainment and function to the city.
Many may not know that one of Mayor Gray’s most important initiatives was to extend a hand to Lexingtonians, inviting them to be a part of imagining our city’s future. The city’s Comprehensive Plan outlines the objective to “engage and educate the residents of Lexington-Fayette County in the planning process.” The city achieves this through social media, surveys, community planning teams, public hearings and the On the Table initiative.
Mayor Gray believes that individual members of our community are the most important asset we have for change. He said, “Miracles can happen. Dreams can come true because of citizens like each and every one of you.”
The Board of Directors of the Lexington Center Corporation voted unanimously to award Messer Construction Company the contract to build the new and expanded Lexington Convention Center.
The $241 million winning contract bid will keep intact the original 2014 design and vision of the project.
The contract includes: all-new construction costs, demolition of the Jefferson Street Bridge including the north abutment, new UK Hospitality Clubs, upper arena chair back seats and parking structures. The construction project began last month and will be completed in November 2021. The project will be built in phases to allow Rupp Arena and much of the convention center to remain operating during construction.
The original design was developed by NBBJ Architects and EOP Architects and includes more square footage of exhibit halls, ballrooms, flexible meeting space, pre-function and circulation space.
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. We are delivering on a powerful idea and soon it will be revealed in bricks and mortar for a world-class reinvented arena and a new convention center.” - Mayor Jim Gray at the Lexington Center groundbreaking ceremony
A Downtown Lexington Partnership survey revealed that 37% of people who visited downtown Lexington in the last six months attended a sporting event.
“The improvements made to Rupp Arena and the expansion and replacement of the Lexington Convention Center are an investment in our future.” - Craig Turner, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Lexington Center
52% of people who visited downtown Lexington did so to attend a special event, according to a survey conducted by the Downtown Lexington Partnership
Town Branch Park
Town Branch Park will be a world-class community gathering space featuring gardens, one-of-a-kind children’s play areas, interactive water features, free performances, art installations, educational programs and a dog park. Picnic with the Pops recently donated a $1.2 million for a 5,000 seat amphitheater.
The signature 10-acre park in the heart of downtown will be the trailhead for 22 miles of green infrastructure with uninterrupted bike and pedestrian paths – linking the urban core to Lexington’s iconic countryside. It will connect people and places alongside the expanded and historic waters of Town Branch Creek, where our city was founded.
In just the last few months, the project has gained momentum. Two other gifts of more than $1 million each have been announced. An official website has been developed, where an animated video is available to view. Environmental studies will begin soon as planning and preparation are under way.
The Town Branch Park partners are working to incorporate ideas they heard from the more than 2,000 residents who responded to the survey. With the community’s help, this truly will be the people’s park and the community’s living room.
Locals can visit the website and sign up for the e-newsletter for updates: townbranchpark.org
“A vibrant urban park is essential to any smart growth plan. Parks serve to strengthen the urban core and protect the suburban fringe from development.” - Bluegrass Community Foundation’s On the Table 2017
43% of people identify parks as a primary site of connection to others.
When Gehl Studio conducted a Public Space Public Life Survey in 2015, it found that less than 5 percent of children in Lexington spent time downtown. The Town Branch Park aims to change that with great amenities and programming.
The Town Branch Park Partners team is working to ensure that inclusion and access are integral to the design, programming and operations of Town Branch Park.
After almost a decade of uncertainty, the newly re-named City Center development is being built at an estimated cost of $200 million. Formerly known as Centre Pointe, The Webb Companies announced the name change in April. City Center is the first large mixed-use complex in downtown Lexington and will provide the best in urban living.
The project consists of six major components: a full service Marriott Hotel with 223 rooms; a Residence Inn, downtown’s first extended stay hotel with 120 rooms; City Center office spaces consisting of 9 floors and approximately 165,000 square feet of office space; The Residences at City Center, 12 luxury condominiums providing the best in urban living; a three story underground parking garage consisting of 710 parking spaces that will serve the entire complex; and a Jeff Ruby Steakhouse located at the corner of Vine and Limestone. The Greer Companies, a partner in City Center, will manage a Starbucks onsite, in addition to other restaurant and retail spaces located on the corner of Main and Upper.
The community is eager for the long-stalled project to be complete, and The Webb Companies and Greer Companies are not wasting any time. The parking garage will be finished by December 30, 2018. The office space will be complete by January 2019. Locals can expect Jeff Ruby Steakhouse to open in Spring 2019, while The Residence Inn and Marriott Hotel are slated to open in Fall of 2019.
“It’s a great time for downtown Lexington. I think that what you’re going to see in the next year–next five years, next ten years–will be even greater!” - Dudley Webb, Chairman and Co-Founder of Webb Companies
The area around City Center has a Walk Score® of 92 with access to public transit, better commutes and all the best that Lexington has to offer.
In December of last year, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit proposals from private developers for a new City Hall as requested by the City Council. The proposals were reviewed and scored by an independent committee. On June 7th, 2018 at a Council Committee of the Whole Meeting CRM Development’s proposal was announced as the selected proposal. During the meeting, Todd Slatin, the city’s purchasing director, said the selection committee showed “there was a clear winner.”
On July 3rd, Bill O’Mara, the city’s finance commissioner, presented again to the Council and reiterated the CRM project will save the city an estimated $39 million over the next 20 years. When asked about this scenario during the Council meetings, O’Mara stated, “This cost comparison convinced me that the question is when do we want to start saving money? This [current] campus is very expensive.”
The next step in the process is a public hearing on August 14th, at which time the City Council will seek any public input on the project before moving forward to act upon the selection and enter into lease negotiations with CRM Development Company for a new city hall project.
The location at 100 Midland Avenue is a gateway to downtown and positions the city government at a literal crossroads of many of the city’s best new projects. The site anchors Town Branch Commons, a landscape that will be a defining feature of downtown’s resurgence. The building will be convenient for citizens when conducting business at city hall, with adequate public parking and ease of access unlike the current solution, while housing all city employees currently spread amongst five buildings into one campus. The building includes inviting, public spaces that will make Lexingtonians proud to enter the downtown corridor.
Mayor Gray captured the benefit to the city when addressing the City Council, “I would say this is really important, not for the legacy of this administration, but for the future of the city. For the future of the city that we don’t continue to waste money and that’s what I urge you to really think about.”
This project intends to eliminate the $22.5 million deferred maintenance obligation the city currently has and transition the $2.97 million of ongoing maintenance and operational costs to a lease payment for a brand new city hall building.
“The challenge for staying on the current campus buildings are they’re old and they have a lot of deferred maintenance. Even after fixing those items that have been identified, it’s an inefficient building and has higher utility costs and higher operating costs than going to a refurbished new building. - Finance and Administration Commissioner Bill Omara
The parking garage will also save the city approximately $260,000 annually that it is currently paying to LexPark for city employee parking.
The lease payment of $5.1 million will not escalate for 35 years, where, during that time and during the course of the lease, $36 million from those lease payments will go towards ongoing maintenance of the building in addition to $3.4 million that will be set aside for major capital improvements. (RFP#55-2017 New Government Center)
800 new parking spaces will be added, to provide easy access for city workers and citizens doing business at City Hall as well as provide parking for the Midland Avenue corridor on nights and weekends!
The Bill Gatton Student Center
Opened in spring 2018, the Bill Gatton Student Center is the newest addition to the UK campus, which has experienced some $2.3 billion in investment in new facilities since 2011. The 378,000-square-foot facility – anchored by a $20 million gift from UK donor and alum Bill Gatton – already is serving as what President Eli Capilouto calls “the campus living room.” The Gatton Student Center contains high-tech offices and meeting spaces for student organizations, student support services and other important outlets such as a PNC Bank and UK Federal Credit Union. It contains sparkling new residential and retail dining options, a two-story Barnes & Noble Bookstore and Starbucks. The UK Visitor Center, two theaters and a large multipurpose ballroom will serve not only the campus, but the larger community.
New Baseball Stadium
The University of Kentucky Athletics Department began construction on a new baseball stadium in February 2017. The new facility is expected to open in fall 2018 in time for the 2019 UK baseball season. The $49 million stadium will give UK baseball a state-of-the-art home on par with its peers in the Southeastern Conference. The new stadium – which is yet to be named – will be located off Alumni Drive between the new Kentucky Football Training Facility and the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex, adding to the cluster of UK Athletics facilities in the area. The stadium will feature permanent seating for nearly 2,500 fans with additional space on grass berms to accommodate a total of more than 4,000 fans for regular-season games. Beyond the outfield wall, temporary bleachers can be installed for NCAA Tournament games to bring the seating capacity to more than 7,000. Fan amenities also will include suites and a new club area. Once the new stadium opens, Cliff Hagan Stadium will be demolished to make way for a new facility for UK’s men’s and women’s tennis programs.