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Town Branch Commons Resurrected?

SCAPE/Landscape Architecture of New York
Concept art from winning SCAPE design for Town Branch Commons

Plans to create a linear park linking the Isaac Murphy Art Garden to Cox Street moved one step closer to becoming a reality this week as Urban County Council voted to draft a resolution supporting an application for a $13 million dollar federal grant to begin the process.

With efforts to remake Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center on indefinite hold, city leaders are revisiting the Town Branch Commons proposal.

Tuesday, the council worked to zero in on cost estimates for the project, which could top $75 million. And while parks officials say only $10 million of that total might come from city coffers, some on the council expressed reservations about taking on another big-ticket downtown project when other areas of the city could use the funds.

"The last thing I want to do is throw something out there and get egg on our face like we did with Rupp Arena," councilman Richard Moloney said. "It's a good project. It can happen. It's just that I don't see where the money is coming in to make this work."

But backers, including Mayor Jim Gray, envision a combination of grants and private dollars generating the lion’s share of the funding. If completed, a 2.5 mile park punctuated by a series of fountains, pools, and other features would run through the center of downtown. Council member Bill Farmer said the project could serve as a compass for parks department planners.

"I think the ability is there for us to start with this as a core, in the core, and work our way into taking care of a whole lot of other park infrastructure that we don't do now," he said. "But I think you have to give people the focus or the finish line or the product, and I think this does that in one fell swoop."

Should the SCAPE/Landscape Architecture of New York design come to fruition, the linear park would terminate in a spacious green space on what is now the Cox Street parking lot adjacent to Rupp Arena.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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