Riding the Streets Day 7: June 6, 2010

It’s been a while, but I found time to knock out a ride today.  Rode out Main Street – did the “Old Main Street” neighborhood, Townley and Meadowthorpe.  Ride took 1:17.  Went out right after the rain under cloudy skies; by the time I was done it was sunny and 76.  WINDY!  Been at least the fourth ride that it’s been very windy.

 Today was my dad’s birthday.  He was born on D-Day in 1944.  He would have been 66 today. 

 Ride Quality:

 Main Street SUCKS!  Inside Newtown are very narrow lanes, cars parked on the street, speeding traffic.  It gets worse past Newtown.  2 lanes, tight curb, no place to bail.  And our lovely fellow citizens speeding like crazy.

It does get better when you get over the rail road viaduct.  A bike lane appears and it’s not too bad from there to the Circle. 

For some reason today getting up the viaduct was very hard – combo of wind and the hill.  I also never really realized that Meadowthorpe is so hilly.  Other than those two, the reat of the ride wasn’t too bad. 

Neighborhood Character:

The neighborhood off of Old Main Street sits hard next to the viaduct:  there was no such thing as environmental justice when it was built, I guess.  That part of the neighborhood really has a forlorn feeling, very urban, like something from a much larger city.  The rest of the neighborhood is modest houses and lots of porch sitters.  Urban and rural at the same time

Reminds me of Eastern Kentucky. Some kids, not many.  Every time I do these rides I’m amazed at the paucity of children.  Are they all inside playing video games?  Do all the families with kids live outside New Circle?

I rode through the Distillery District, down Forbes Road, past the stockyard, and around Lisle Industrial Avenue.  All areas empty on a Sunday.  It’s amazing to see all the buildings that were devoted to tobacco. This whole area is probably an environmental mess, but it is prime for redevelopment over time.

I rode into the Leestown Road shopping center – the one with the Kroger.  The crazy traffic pattern doesn’t make sense today, but it was designed that way to save a huge old tree on the property when the center was developed.  The tree didn’t make it.

I’ll take some credit for the Townley Center.  I’ve been preaching New Urbanism since the mid-1990s.  In several discussion with me, the developer of this area took some of that to heart.  Buildings are close the street, parking is around back, a mix of uses are close to one another,  and there are front porch houses with alleys behind. 

But while this area is better than most new developments in Lexington, it doesn’t quite make the cut as a really good design.  There are no vertical mixed uses.  The “main street” is too wide and doesn’t create a sense of place.  There are no bike racks in this area.  The hotel that’s in the development could have been more integrated into the fabric, and the large multi-family area reeks of suburbanity.

Across the street, in the Meadowthorpe neighborhood, is a good example of the best of the old fashioned suburban development.  Large lot single family homes are integrated with apartment houses, a school, a park, and a church.  This is a neighborhood that has a lot of diversity in housing stock and is fairly dense for being a predominately   single family neighborhood.   In many ways it reminds me of Ashland Park in regard to this mix.  Overall it seems to have held up well. 

It is however very frustrating to me as a planner to see this:

There obviously was a section of the area that hadn’t been developed until the 1990s.  The developer, the neighbors, and the city planners all missed an opportunity to make this appendage have the same feel as the rest of the neighborhood.  Instead we get overly wide streets, garage doors and no street trees.  This view is literally just around the corner.  We’re too stupid obviously to build on a tradition that was working.

I love the shops on the north side of Leestown.  While there is absolutely no architectural character or sense of place in this area, this is a great and eclectic collection of local businesses.   Can anyone tell me why the Meadowthorpe Café is closed?  I rode by and there is no explanation.

General Thoughts:

  1.  If we are ever going to add people in new housing, then, even beyond the Distillery District, the land on Forbes Road and Lisle Industrial Avenue is prime for redevelopment.   It’s close enough to all the major attractors in the city to truly be a great inner city neighborhood.  Since this opportunity can be seen clearly now, careful planning must also be done for the existing neighborhood that would border any new development.   See, this is called “planning.” 

 But we don’t do planning in Lexington.  We do reacting.  Latest example:  CVS on Main Street.  I mean really, was it THAT hard to figure out that something new was going to go there? 

2.   The two lane stretch of Main Street between the cemeteries reminds me of the entrances to many small towns. And it will always be this way  – this is one road that can’t be widened!  A good urban designer could really play this quality of place up and make it one of the special areas of the city. 

3.  The “Meadowthorpe Main Street” really needs some attention. This could be very similar in work that I was involved with to spruce up Southland Drive (8 years ago!).  We did a charette with architects and landscape architects and the merchant group and the city has been working that plan ever since.   If anyone out there reads this:  I’m willing to help.  We can discuss place making plans like landscaping, pedestrian improvements, signage, and potentially even events.

4.  I still have a LONG way to go to complete my quest to ride every street inside New Circle Road.

5.  Saw 2 bikers all trip.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Riding the Streets Day 7: June 6, 2010

  1. Tim

    Steve,

    My fiancé and I are looking at the townhouses/bungalows at Townley Center. The Cafe down the street closed because the owner said he wanted to focus his efforts on Duggans in Midway.

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