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Distillery District Study Nearly Complete; Floodplain Map Critical to Improvements

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Issues surrounding utilities, sewers, and Town Branch Creek are highlighted in a new feasibility study of Lexington’s Distillery District.

Mike Woolum, a consultant with Strand Associates, gave an overview of the Distillery District report to Urban County Council members Tuesday. It recommends city leaders invest an estimated $825,000 to  address key issues with the Manchester Street project:

  • Development of a preliminary plan for trails and streetscape
  • Revising the floodplain map for the Town Branch Creek watershed
  • Working with utility companies
  • Implementing a plan for sanitary sewers
  • Revitalizing the stream condition of Town Branch Creek
Map of the Distillery District, just west of downtown Lexington - courtesy Strand Associates

Current maps show that flood waters could rise up to 7 feet along Manchester Street.  Woolum says re-evaluating the floodplain and getting it approved by FEMA could take up to two years to complete and would require looking at the entire Town Branch Creek watershed from Midland Avenue to New Circle Road.

“The actual runoff model for this watershed probably dates back to the 1970’s and it wasn’t developed in a manner that we would typically develop a runoff model by today’s standards.”

The city authorized $2.2 million in bonding more than three years ago to study the infrastructure needs of the Distillery District. Nearly $1.7 million in bonds are still available.

“Once we get the final report in, what we need to do is really get with Council and talk about the ways that we can strategically invest those public dollars in public infrastructure that can make the biggest impact in this area,” says Planning Commissioner Derek Paulsen.

The Distillery District was once the industrial hub of Lexington and was home to the James E. Pepper Distillery.

Van Meter Pettit, President of the non-profit organization Town Branch Trail, Inc. hopes the city will use the remaining bond funds to help advance improvements in the district.

“I’m working with my fourth mayor and I think my seventh Council on this, so it’s taught a certain amount of patience. But I do think people get it, and I think we’re ready to at least invest enough to get good due diligence so we know how to move forward.”

Some businesses, such as Buster's and Barrel House Events, have found a home in the Distillery District. Woolum says clearly defining the infrastructure could help attract more private developers to the area.

“People don’t understand what it will take to actually realize an end result. So by being able to define those upfront, you open the door for more people to consider investment in the actual district itself.”

The feasibility study is expected to be finalized in a few weeks for the full Council to consider as it develops a budget for the next fiscal year.

Lexington native Brenna Angel anchored local morning newscasts for WUKY through May 13. She joined the station in March 2010 after previously working for WHAS-AM in Louisville.
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