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City Preps Community For Courthouse Work

Josh James

Environmental work on Lexington’s old Fayette County Courthouse is slated to begin this summer. City officials held a public meeting downtown Wednesday to present the plan and take public comment.

Shuttered since 2012, the ailing historic building still houses mold, asbestos, and lead-based paint – environmental concerns the city plans to alleviate using state and federal cleanup grants. Jenifer Wuorenmaa, a city administrator overseeing the project, says starting next week visitors will begin noticing changes.

"What was important for the mayor was to make sure that everybody who would be impacted downtown knew what the impacts would be, so essentially if you see a tree coming down you know why. If you see a lane being closed, you know why," she explains.

New fencing will go up along Upper Street first, shifting one lane of parking to the north. After July 5, fencing will expand around the more than century-old structure. One tree will be removed and another relocated while historical markers are stored or braced for construction.

Attendee Lexington historian Kalvin Graves wants reassurances from the city that the site’s past – nearby Cheapside Park was once the largest slave-trading locality in the state – is respected as the building is revamped.

"We need to make sure that we do it right," he tells WUKY. "We need to make sure that we let people know the historical aspect of this courthouse."

Exterior work will take place this summer while interiors are set for completion in 2018, at which point the city hopes to attract new tenants to provide a sustainable source of revenue.

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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