Conversations are underway between the city and the University of Kentucky that could result in a major land swap deal – one that would give the school control of a number of roads in and around campus.
"This is historic in terms of the partnership, the amount of land involved, and the opportunity that it presents for everybody," says UK spokesman Jay Blanton.
If successful, the negotiations would see the school handing more than 200 shovel-ready acres over to a city desperate for new space for economic development, while the city deeds all or part of nearly two dozen sections of road to UK. The potential deal comes as city leaders face increasing pressure to expand the urban service boundary or locate more land for businesses with an interest in locating in Lexington.
"The city right now has no land to be able to offer to someone who's looking at a site. If they want to create a couple hundred jobs tomorrow, there's no land to do that," Blanton explains. "This provides that. It literally more than doubles, I think, the industrial park that is in that part of the county as well potentially."
He's referring to parcels of land around UK's Coldstream Research Park, which would be conveyed to the city at no cost in return for ownership of nearly two dozen roads or sections of road peppered around campus. They include sections of Rose Lane and Rose Street, along with Hilltop and Linden Walk. Blanton says all roads under consideration will remain as they are for the foreseeable future, apart from possible upgrades. (See the Lexington Herald-Leader's map of affected streets.)
"We want to improve safety. We want to improve bike access. We want to upgrade those roads, but there are no immediate plans to make any changes to the roads that we're talking about," Blanton tells WUKY.
But neighborhood residents' ears have been pricked, and changes in road ownership inevitably lead to questions about whether the school might eventually choose to close or alter some streets in accordance with its overall master plan.
"We absolutely need to engage with neighborhoods and neighborhood associations to have a good discussion," Blanton says.