Opening of the Town Branch Commons greenway in downtown Lexington, Kentucky

After a decade of planning, design and fundraising, Lexington, Kentucky’s Town Branch Commons is now open. Featuring a protected bike lane and dedicated pedestrian path, the multi-modal greenway stretches 2.5 miles through the heart of the Bluegrass State’s second-largest city, providing residents with a new mode of connectivity car-free while introducing robust, resiliency-building elements of green infrastructure and generous swathes of public open space to the concrete-dominated landscape of downtown Lexington.

A project of the Lexington–Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG), the design of Town Branch Commons was led by landscape architecture and urban design studio SCAPE working alongside a large multi-disciplinary team that included Gresham and others. Smith. SCAPE first entered the fold in 2013 after winning a design competition for the nascent stormwater management-slash-urban pathway project and spearheaded the design vision, master plan and design guidelines. . Gresham Smith and the wider design team joined later in the process to execute final design documentation and implementation with SCAPE playing an advisory role.

The greenway features an abundance of native grasses, plants and trees. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)
two women walk and talk along a path lined with greenery
Dry-stacked limestone plays a prominent role in the design. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)

In 2016, the transformative public-private project received a major boost in the form of $14.1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation through a discretionary Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. ). The total cost of the Town Branch Commons was $22 million, with additional funding from private sources and a mix of federal, state, and local grants. The project, a 2022 winner of the Federal Highway Administration’s Environmental Excellence Award, has also received private philanthropic support through the Reimagining Civic Commons initiative.

The cornerstone of the Town Branch Commons, named after the buried creek that runs through downtown Lexington and whose winding road is traced by the new greenway, took place in 2018, work on all segments of the way green ending this year. As the final piece of a larger citywide alternative transportation program, the Town Branch Commons connects at both ends to the Town Branch Trail and Legacy Trail to form a continuous 22-mile transportation network which now connects downtown Lexington to rural Fayette County communities to the north and west.

“It has been an honor for SCAPE to work with LFUCG for over a decade to achieve their goal: a legacy open space that honors the spirit of Bluegrass Country,” said Kate Orff, Founding Director of SCAPE, in a statement. hurry. “This is a testament to years of collaborative work – grant proposals, public education initiatives, iterative design, and working with local artisans to create a space for all Lexingtonians.”

    a man walks down a long pedestrian path flanked by greenery
The Greenway connects downtown Lexington to two larger trail systems to the north and west. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)
guys are playing in a water feature along a bike path
Town Branch Commons traces the route of historic Town Branch Creek. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)

As mentioned, Stormwater Management is, alongside its bike and pedestrian paths, at the heart of Town Branch Commons, permeating downtown Lexington with lush native vegetation that collects and treats stormwater runoff while limiting urban flooding during severe weather events. In addition to green infrastructure elements that mitigate flooding and beautify the streetscape, including swales and rain gardens, more than 300 trees have also been planted to provide shade and cool the city during heat waves. – the new trees triple the size of the existing urban canopy of downtown Lexington. The same number of vehicular lanes along two of Lexington’s main downtown thoroughfares – Midland Avenue and Vine Street – were retained during the project and are now joined by a 14-foot-wide multi-use pathway along Midland and separate trails for pedestrians and cyclists on Vine.

Along a 2.5-mile section of the route, users will find interpretive panels, also designed by SCAPE, that highlight different aspects of central Kentucky’s social history and its karst geology, this the latter having played a formidable role in the design of the greenway, particularly in its paving details. Along the trail, a contemporary interpretation of Kentucky’s iconic dry-pile limestone fences also pay homage to the geology of the Bluegrass region.

A host of established parks and cultural attractions are merged by the new Downtown Lexington Greenway, including the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, Thoroughbred Park, Charles Young Park, Triangle Park and the future Town Branch Park , a 10-acre privately funded green space. which, when completed, will anchor the town’s branch towns. Designed by Sasaki, this project should see the light of day next spring.

aerial view of a park in downtown lexinton, kentucky
The Greenway serves as a car-free link to many downtown parks and attractions. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)
people walk along a multimodal path in a city center
The existing number of traffic lanes along two main streets in Lexington was retained. (©SCAPE and Ty Cole)

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear called the completion of Town Branch Commons “a major milestone in Lexington’s history”.

“Built along the path of the city’s cornerstone waterway, Town Branch Creek, this forward-looking trail succeeds on every level,” Beshear added. “This is a beautiful, multi-functional parkway, trail and greenway that encourages both healthy activity and economic development along the way.

Closer to SCAPE territory in New York, Orff and SCAPE Resilience Principal Pippa Brashear will be joined by Michael Marrella, director of climate planning and sustainability with the NYC Department of Urban Planning, for a boat trip the afternoon on October 23 showcasing green infrastructure and coastal resilience initiatives undertaken by the city in the decade since Super Hurricane Sandy. The paid excursion, part of the Sandy 10+ series, is a featured tour during the Open House New York weekend.

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