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Lexington A 'Standout' In Knight Cities Challenge


Six Lexington projects have cleared the first hurdle in the annual Knight Cities Challenge, a nonprofit initiative that asks, “What’s your best idea to make cities more successful?”

It’s the third go-round for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation challenge, and Lexington continues to snags more finalist nods each year. The city nabbed three spots the first year and five the second. Three ultimately won part of the challenge's $5 million grant pool.

"Lexington, for a small to mid-size market, really has been the standout," says foundation program director Lilly Weinberg.

2017’s contenders include, among others: Civiclex, which would bring together citizen journalists and others to create an online local news hub, and Plant & Play, a North Limestone initiative to constrict an "adventure playscape" and community garden at Castlewood Park.

"We're building a huge rain garden up in Castlewood Park to address the storm water issues, where runoff from the park is flooding adjacent properties, basements, and otherwise causing damage," NoLi's Kristofer Nonn tells WUKY.

LexArts' Retrofitting the RETRO project, concentrating on beautifying the Southland Drive corridor and making it more pedestrian-friendly, also made the first cut. Unveiling a new eye-catching entrance sign in December, Southland Association President Hilary Baumann suggested the area is primed for revitalization.

"A lot of the empty spaces have filled up. We've got new buildings in a couple places that have kind of taken care of some areas that didn't have anything in it," she said. "I think there's a little bit of a new and exciting vibe going on over here."

Lexington already has three Knight-funded projects in the pipeline – transforming a Loudon Avenue bus depot into a public market, adding more family-friendly programming to Phoenix Park, and "Parking Lot Diaries," an effort to gather input and test activities to create a more dynamic downtown.

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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