Designs for downtown Lexington Town Branch park released

The final designs for the proposed 10-acre Town Branch Park will include an urban dog park, water play areas, children’s playground, stage, and numerous trails.

The privately funded public park unveiled the designs Thursday.

Those designs were refined after hearing input from more than 16,000 community members, said Allison Lankford, executive director of Town Branch Park.

“Town Branch Park is going to lift our entire downtown and take it to the next level,” said Mayor Linda Gorton. “It is a destination park. It will attract a steady stream of visitors, both from outside and living here.”

The 7,600-square-foot urban dog park will have two kennels: one for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs. The water playground, which is 3,350 square feet in size, will feature a traditional splash pad, but will also feature science, technology and engineering with hands-on activities that show children and adults alike how streams and waterways work.

“It was always our intention to have a water feature that was meant to be played because we thought the center really needed that,” Lankford said. “We have beautiful water features (inner city) but they were never intended for playing. As the design evolved, we added an educational component, a STEM component to match Town Branch Creek.”

The water playground and the children’s playground are accessible to disabled people.

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The proposed 10-acre Town Branch Park in downtown Lexington will have multiple playgrounds. Town Branch Park and Sasaki, the design firm, released the final designs for the park on September 22, 2022. Town Branch Park, Sasaki

After hearing from the arts community, Town Branch Park made adjustments to the stage and large lawn, where people can sit for performances, Lankford said.

Lexington Philharmonic’s Picnic with the Pops has already said it will move its annual event to Town Branch Park once it’s done.

Part of Town Branch Creek is also part of the park. The creek is already there, but according to the plans, the creek bed needs to be restored.

David Dickinson, a Lexington resident who attended the park’s unveiling at Central Bank Center on Thursday, said the part of the park he’s most excited about is the creek.

“You have to keep the native plants around and keep the native animals around,” Dickinson said. “If you have too many invasive species, you have a lot of problems.”

Representatives from Town Branch Park and its design firm, Sasaki, provided design details for the park’s key features on Thursday. In addition, attendees watched a fly-through video and viewed a scale model of the park.

Groundbreaking on the park is scheduled for spring 2023.

The end date is 2025.

“Since its inception, Town Branch Park has been seen as Lexington’s living room, a place where everyone is welcome and the community can thrive,” Lankford said. “We are grateful for the overwhelming support for this project and today unveil a design shaped by the input of thousands of Lexingtonians who graciously shared their knowledge, ideas and vision for Town Branch Park.”

The privately funded Town Branch Park is part of a larger refurbishment of the Central Bank Center and Rupp Arena area at Main, Vine, High and Manchester streets. The 10-acre public park is adjacent to the newly renovated and expanded Central Bank Center.

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The view of Town Branch Park from the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge. Town Branch Park and Sasaki, the design firm, released the final designs for the park on September 22, 2022. Town Branch Park/Sasaki

Construction on the park could not begin until the expansion of the Central Bank Center was completed. Much of the area where the proposed park will be located has been used as a staging area for the construction of the center. The Central Bank Center is now largely completed.

The price tag for the park has continued to rise due to rising construction costs and a new main entrance on High Street.

Lankford said the group has raised $34.7 million so far. It has yet to raise an additional $2.3 million for the construction phase.

In addition, the group is also raising money for a donation to cover operating costs in the first two years of opening. Lankford said the park will be self-sufficient, generating rental and other fees through performances at the pavilion and rental fees for other events.

“It’s a public park,” Lankford said. There will be ticketed events at the stage and amphitheater, but the rest of the park will remain open to the public, she said.

Gorton said changes will be made to improve safety in the area and accessibility to the park.

Carl Graham, a resident who lives near the park, expressed concern about the area’s homeless population and wondered how this will affect the park.

“I don’t know what their plans are here. It’s going to be very interesting to see, because that’s a big meeting place for the homeless now, just behind the Salvation Army,’ Graham said.

Switch inputs

The original plans for the park included a Main Street entrance on the former slope of the now demolished Jefferson Street Bridge. A parking dispute between the city, Main Street Baptist Church, the Lexington Center Corp. and the park meant park officials had to look into moving the main entrance. Main Street Baptist has church buildings on either side of Jefferson Street.

The Church and Lexington Center Corp. have entered into a long-standing verbal agreement to allow the church to use one of the surface parking lots for services. That parking lot is no longer part of the park entrance due to the Main Street Baptist Church issue.

Lankford said the public can still access the park from Main Street via the Town Branch Trail, which enters the park from Vine Street in front of Central Bank Center and from Manchester Street in the Distillery District.

The new High and Manchester Street entrance includes a tunnel under Manchester Street and a pedestrian bridge to the park. The city contributed approximately $6.2 million to that entrance because it is on a public highway or on city property.

Parking has long been mentioned as a concern with the park.

There are currently more than 4,200 parking spaces within one block of the park and more than 6,000 within three blocks of the park through a variety of garages and street parking spaces, park officials said.

Take a closer look

The public can view the final designs and a model of the park in the coming weeks. Lankford said they are also seeking public input on programming and events for the park.

Here are some of the pop-up display locations:

Lexington Senior Center

  • 195 Life Lane
  • Friday Sept 23.
  • 10am – 3pm

Greyline station

  • 101 W. Loudon Ave.
  • Saturday Sept 24
  • 9.00 – 12.00 hrs

Lexington Public Library Northside Branch

  • Russell Cave Road, 1733
  • Monday 26 Sept.
  • 10am – 5pm

Lexington Public Library Village Branch

  • 1801 Alexandria Drive, Suite 136
  • tuesday 27 september
  • 10am – 5pm

Eastside Branch of the Lexington Public Library

  • 3000 Blake James Drive
  • Wednesday September 28
  • 10am – 5pm

Lexington Public Library Beaumont Branch

  • 3080 Fieldstone Way
  • Thursday September 29
  • 10am – 3pm

Thursday Night Live

  • 251 W. Main Street.
  • Thursday September 29
  • 17.00 – 20.00 hrs

Lexington Public Library Tates Creek Branch

  • 3628 Walden Dr.
  • Friday September 30
  • 10am – 5pm

Farmers Market in Lexington

  • Tandy Centennial Park
  • Saturday Oct 19.
  • 9am – 12pm

This story was originally published September 22, 2022 3:30 PM.

Beth Musgrave has covered government and politics for the Herald-Leader for over a decade. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and has worked as a reporter in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois and Washington DC

Chris Leach is a latest news reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He joined the paper in September 2021, having previously worked for Anderson News and the Cats Pause. Chris graduated from the UK in December 2018.
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