antipaucity

fighting the lack of good ideas

vision for lexington

Over the past 5 years, I have witnessed some of the growth Lexington KY has started to undergo. From a population in the city proper of about 260,000 in 2000 to 295,000 in 2010 to an estimated 315,000 in 2015,

While there seems to be something of a plan/vision for the downtown area, the majority of Lexington (and its urban area) seems to be more-or-less ignored from an infrastructural perspective (the last update was in 2009, and only for a small part of Lexington).

Public Transit

The public transit system, as hard as I am sure Lextran employees work, is underutilized, poorly routed, and has no means of connecting into it form out of Lexington (full route map (PDF)).

In comparison to where I grew up, the Capital District of New York, the public transit system is both too inwardly-focused, and too poorly-promoted to be useful more most Lexingtonians. CDTA, for example, has connectors to other cities and towns other than just Albany. You can start where I grew up in Cohoes (about 10 miles north of Albany), and get more-or-less anywhere in the greater Capital District by bus. It might take a while, but you can get there (or get close). There are also several Park’n’Ride locations for commuters to take advantage of.

Lextran doesn’t offer anything to connect to Nicholasville, Versailles, or Georgetown. With workers commuting-in from those locales (and more – some come from Richmond or Frankfort (or go in the opposite direction)), one would think urban planners would want to offer alleviations of traffic congestion. But there is nothing visible along those lines.

Lost Neighborhoods

There are large chunks of Lexington where the houses are crumbling, crime rates are higher than the rest of the city, and the citizens living there are being [almost] actively avoided and/or neglected by the city.

Some limited business development has gone into these neighborhoods (like West 6th Brewing), but as a whole they are becoming places “to be avoided”, rather than places where anyone is taking time and effort to improve, promote, and generally line-up with the rest of the city.

Yes, everywhere has regions that folks try to avoid, but the lost and dying neighborhoods in Lexington are saddening.

Walking

Lexington is – in places – a walkable city, but for most of the residential areas, it was/is up to the developers of the subdivisions as to whether or not there are sidewalks. And if they weren’t put in then, getting them done now is like pulling teeth.

Being able to walk to many/most places (or types of places) you might want to go is one of the major hallmarks of a city. One that is only exhibited in pockets in Lexington.

It should even be a hallmark of shopping areas – but look at Hamburg Pavillion. A shopping, housing, and services mini town (apartments, condos, houses, banking, education, restaurants, clothes, etc), Hamburg is one of the regional Meccas for folks who want to do major shopping trips or eat at nice restaurants. The map (PDF), however (which only shows part of the Hamburg complex) demonstrates that while pockets of the center are walkable, getting from one shopping/eating/entertainment pod to another requires walking across large parking lots – impractical if shopping with children, or when carrying more than a couple bags.

Crosswalks and lighted crossings on major roads, in some cases, leave mere seconds to spare before the light changes – if you’re moving at a crisp clip. Add a stroller, collapsible shopping cart, or heavy book bag, and several crossings become “safe” only if drivers see you are already crossing and wait for you. Stories like of pedestrians being hit, like this one, are far too common to read in local news media.

Employment

There is no lack of employment opportunities in the Lexington area – there are 15 major employers in Lexington, hundreds of small-to-medium businesses running the gamut of offerings from auto dealers to lawn care, IT to healthcare, equine products, home construction, etc; and hundreds of national chains (retail, restaurants, services, etc) are here, too.

Finding said employment can be difficult, though. There are some services like In2Lex which send newsletters with employment opportunities – but if you don’t know about them, finding work in the area isn’t as easy as one would think a Chamber of Commerce would want. Yes, employers need to advertise their openings, but even finding lists of companies in the area is difficult.

Connectivity to Other Areas

Direct flights into and out of Lexington Bluegrass Airport reach 15 major metro areas across half the country.

Interstates 75 and 64 cross just outside city limits.

The Underlying Problem

The major problem Lexington seems to have is that it doesn’t know it’s become a decent-sized metropolitan area. There are about 500,000 people in MSA, or about 12% the population of the whole state. It’s a little under half the size of the Louisville MSA (which includes a couple counties in Indiana). There are 8 colleges/universities in Lexington alone (PDF), and 15 under an hour from downtown.

To paraphrase Reno NV’s slogan, Lexington is the biggest little town in Kentucky. The last major infrastructural improvement done was Man O’ War Boulevard, completed in 1988 – more than a quarter century past. There were improvements done to New Circle Road in the 1990s, but that ended over 15 years ago. Lexington proper was 30% smaller in 1990 than it is now (225,000 vs 315,000).

Lexington’s 65+ year-old Urban Service Area, while great to maintain the old character of the city and region, hasn’t been reviewed since 1997. A few related changes have been added since, but the last of those was in 2001.

One and a half decades since major infrastructural improvements. Activities like the much-delayed Centre Point (which I agree doesn’t need to be done in the manner originally planned), the begun Summit, and other development projects may, eventually, be good for business and the city as a whole, but there has been little-to-no consideration for what will happen with traffic. Traffic problems and general accessibility is one of the core responsibilities of local government.

The double diamond interchange installed a couple years back on Harrodsburg Rd was a good improvement to that intersection. But it was only good for that intersection. It alleviated some traffic concerns, crashes, and complications, but only on one road.

Lexington needs leadership that sees where the city not only was 10, 25, 50 years ago, but where it is now and where it wants to be in another 10, 20, 50 years.

My Vision

My vision for Lexington, infrastructurally, includes interchange improvements / rebuilds for more New Circle Road exits. Exit 7, Leestown Road, grants access to Coke, FedEx, Masterson Station, the VA hospital, a BCTC campus, and more. Big Ass Fans is between exit 8 from New Circle and  exit 118 of I-75. Exit 9 from New Circle more-or-less exists to provide Lexmark with a way for their employees to arrive. The major employers in the area are great for economic stability. But with traffic congestion, getting into and out of them needs to be as smooth as possible.

West Sixth Brewery and Transylvania University are two of the highlights in an otherwise-aging, -dying, and -lost area of the city. There needs to be a public commitment on the part of both the city and the citizenry to not allow the city to become segregated. Not segregated based on skin tone, but on economic status.

Bryan Station High School has a reputation, deservedly or not, of being one of the worst high schools in the region, because of the dying/lost status of the parts of town it draws from. You can buy a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1300 square foot house for under $20,000 near Bryan Station. It needs a little bit of work, but what does that say about the neighborhood?

The leadership of Lexington seems to be ignoring parts of the city that are going downhill, preferring instead to focus on regions that are going up. Ignoring dying parts of the city from an infrastructural perspective isn’t going to make them any better – they will only drag more of the city down with them. As a citizen and a homeowner, I want to see my city do well.

I do not like paying taxes any more than anyone else, but I do like seeing the city taking initiative and working to both heal itself and take steps towards attracting future generations, businesses, and more that we don’t even know are coming.

Lexington has great promise – it is growing, expanding, and burgeoning. But if its leadership – political, business, and citizenry – doesn’t take the time, effort, and money to ensure it’s prepared for this growth, it will become a morass to traverse, live in, and do business with.


Some more interesting regional data (PDF)

bglug meeting – 17 september – topic: data center automation

The September meeting of the Bluegrass Linux User Group will be this Saturday, 17 Sep.

We’ll be meeting at Collexion’s facilities in Lexington at 2:30p.

I will be presenting on data center automation, specifically on HP’s Server Automation platform (the tool I use on my day job).

Some [limited] history of HPSA is available on the Opsware wikipedia page.

We’ll also briefly touch on some of the OSS alternatives to a full-blown environment like HPSA, such as:

new residence

Though it’s not the ideal we have of owning our own home, my wife and I will be one step closer in a few days as we will be signing a lease on a rental home here in Lexington and moving out of the apartment complex we’ve been in since we got married.

I think she’s pretty excited 🙂

melting pot

Normally I don’t like reviewing chains, but The Melting Pot is different. It’s a fondue place, and is a blast to eat at.

The first time I went was with my wife and parents-in-law the weekend before Thanksgiving. We were looking for a “fun” place to eat, and had been thinking about trying a fondue place for a while, so we went. We ordered a pair of their “Big Night Out France” dinners – two four-course fondue extravaganzas that allowed us to mix and match our “cooking styles” (in other words, the broths in which you cook your meat chunks).

So the cool thing about a fondue place is that you cook your own food at your table. The ingredients are brought out raw, and you spear them and set them in the near-boiling broth for 30-90 seconds (as done as you want). The four-course dinner started with a cheese appetizer round with chunks of bread and fruit to dip. Second was a selection of salads for each person at the table, and then came the coup de gras – the meat round! (My wife would say that the best part is the dessert, but she’s wrong 😉 )

The meat comes out raw and seasoned in a variety of marinades (we had duck l’orange, peppered sirloin, marinated fillet, chicken, shrimp, and lobster tail). There are also a host of sauces that can be added post-cooking to the different meats: far more than I could recall in detail 🙂

Our evening out was a blast – while we were worried that it would be hyper-formal or “too fancy”, it was fun. Fun enough that a couple weeks later I took my wife back for a smaller meal for just the two of us. The second time we went there was a small bit of excitement a few tables away from us: a couple on a date got engaged, and left with stars in their eyes.

Melting Pot is not a place I would recommend on a routine basis – full meals run in the neighborhood of $50 a person – but it is a lot of fun, and definitely worth going to for special events.

the julep cup

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a restaurant worth writing about. Last night I finally found one again.

To celebrate the two monthiversary of marrying my wife (since I had to miss the one month one with work travel), I decided to take her out to a nice place that wasn’t a chain (if possible).

After a coupe hours of searching food review in Lexington, perusing various websites like Google local results and Urbanspoon, I finally went to the old standby, OpenTable. OpenTable doesn’t have every possible restaurant listed, only ones that choose to participate. But it does allow you to look over user reviews, link to the restaurant’s menu, etc. (Yes, other sites do this, too, but OT adds the secret sauce.)

After finding The Julep Cup, less then 4 miles from our apartment, I decided that was where we should go. 111 Woodland Ave in Lexington is on the corner of E Main St, on the first floor of The Woodlands building (along with some other small shops, but we didn’t go in any of those).

For an appetizer, we ordered the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and garden salads. For her main dish, my wife ordered the Linguine and Clams and I had their Ricotta and Pecorino Romano Raviolis. Our server, Truitt, was attentive without hovering (we also think he was new, because he was a little nervous, but he did an excellent job). Water and tea glasses were refilled, the courses of our meal arrived in a timely fashion, and we were able to enjoy our meal on their patio in the pleasant evening shade of a late summer day.

The linguine sauce was light but flavorful, and I’m not sure I’ve seen as many clams festooned across a dish that wasn’t just a pound of steamed clams before. My ravioli was fantastic, and the mushrooms and generous romano shavings on top added a nice contrast to the simple ricotta filling.

The Julep Cup (dinner menu) doesn’t require reservations, but they are suggested. Last night, they had plenty of seating available, but I would imagine that’s different seasonally, and on other nights of the week.

The outdoor seating was pleasant, and my wife and I are looking forward to dining there again soon.