With the approval of a $14.1 million dollar federal grant, plans for Lexington’s proposed Town Branch Commons have moved into high gear. The Urban County Council heard an update Tuesday.
The long-awaited downtown trail system joining the Town Branch and Legacy trails is looking more and more like a reality, but with that progress comes new questions about design and funding. At this week’s council work session, city leaders heard how the pieces are coming together with the help of a low-interest state loan, state and federal grants, and city bonding.
Town Branch Commons alone will come with a more than $35 million price tag, an amount council member Amanda Bledsoe said can be difficult to explain to constituents. Senior city administrator Jonathan Hollinger explained that city trails – as opposed to the rural variety – pose unique challenges.
"When you're in the urban setting, you have a very high density of utilities. The materials are different. All of the infrastructure that you have to deal with is different and it's expensive," he answered.
The $35 million does not cover the cost of the proposed greenspace near Rupp Arena dubbed Town Branch Park.
Commons design options still need to be discussed, however. One suggestion involving the closure of a portion of Vine Street drew fire from councilman Richard Moloney at the Tuesday meeting, who noted that past attempts have prompted widespread public backlash.
"When you try to close that Vine Street, I'm going to tell you it's not going to work," the at-large councilman warned. "You're going to have everybody in town down here."
Hollinger assured Moloney nothing is written in stone.
"There are multiple options obviously. Conceptually I have shown here one that leaves it open. There are conceptually options that close it as well, and all of those things have to be weighed as we go through this," the administrator said.
Officials are eyeing a 2018 start date for work on the commons with completion set for 2020.