The land-street swap deal between Lexington and the University of Kentucky lacks one more approval before it’s a done deal. It needs Lexington City Council backing to move forward. But first, UK’s neighbors will get a chance to review the plan Tuesday evening.
Here are the primary talking points for the deal: Lexington gets 250 commercial-friendly acres by the interstate and the university gets some 13 acres of streets in and around campus. Lexington Mayor Jim Gray says development of the property could mean 5,000 jobs over time. “We’ve needed this property to be in business. We’ve needed this product in order to have available for manufacturing companies and businesses that want to locate here,” said Gray.
Gray spoke of the now full Bluegrass Business Park off Georgetown Road and how the land near Coldstream Research Campus off Newtown Pike could serve commercial interests for many years.
Coldstream Director George Ward says UK’s interest in streets near campus provides flexibility to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow. “When the university owns a street we believe that we can react faster as needs might arise for some type of safety provision,” noted Ward.
It’s infrastructure improvements that got the attention of Councilman Jake Gibbs, with UK spending $3 million and the city $1 million over a ten years. “And we can make serious improvements in the area around the university. One of the questions I have is how that money is going to be used and who’s going to make that decision,” said Gibbs.
Nearby residents are trying to keep tuned in to developments. Robin Michler is part of the family who has operated Michler Florist-Greenhouse- and Garden Design for over a century. He is active in the Aylesford Neighborhood Association. Michler says residents in the historic district have concerns about a lack of buffering.“What we really dislike most of all is when the expansion takes the form of a parking lot,” said Michler.
Spending time in graduate school at North Carolina State, Michler says students were not allowed to park on campus but were shuttled onto the Greensboro campus from a satellite parking lot.
Greg Guenthner is the Aylesford Neighborhood representative on the UK-Neighborhood Advisory Council. He would like to see more frequent communication with UK. Guenthner says UK’s development approach thus far hasn’t helped to facilitate the walk to work concept.
“Instead of incentivizing faculty and staff moving back into the near neighborhoods, we seem to be developing this plan which actually discourages it,” noted Guenthner.
Guenthner believes the city council and neighborhood residents should be asking UK what it’s long term plans are for the 13 acres of streets.
Tim Haymaker is a well-known Lexington developer. He’s been in real estate for 46 years and sees a continuing need for more industrial land. “So anybody that tells you that it’s not a good market, the light industrial. It’s a very strong market, and it’s needed here,” argued Haymaker.
Haymaker says UK plays a role in producing high paying professionals, people who help making the local economy vibrant
George Ward at UK admits some houses could eventually be demolished, but he adds school administrators don’t have a definite plan at this time. All these details may become clearer in coming weeks as the land-street swap deal goes before city leaders.