A Streetscape Redesign Activates a Central Downtown Corridor

June 30, 2023

The corridor tracing the path of the Town Branch Creek, long ago captured in an underground culvert running through downtown Lexington, Kentucky, is a central, busy one, but the adjacent high-speed streets were dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The county sought to improve the corridor with public amenity spaces, revamped traffic-calming roadways, and new lighting.

Landscape architecture and urban design studio SCAPE partnered with Gresham Smith to take an imaginative approach to the redesigned corridor, creating a multimodal linear park that highlighted the hydrology of the region. The underground water cutting through porous limestone to form caves and horizontal streams was expressed through cascading slabs of limestone that define the borders of the pathway. The slabs also separate cars and people.

The stone walls run along the park’s rain gardens and plazas. With water management a chief goal of the project, the gardens are sized to store, infiltrate, and transport storm water as it makes its way into the Town Branch culvert. Water features within the plazas further reinforce the geologic history of the region. Over time, the plazas will become shady as trees mature.

Improved lighting was essential to the project and had to function effectively for both pedestrian and vehicular traffic. SCAPE selected Torres area lights because of their “scale and ability to play multiple roles,” says Gena Wirth, design principal and partner. Single and double fixtures positioned at a height of 12 feet and with a warm 3000K color temperature and Dark Sky rating provide comfortable and and environmentally responsible lighting for cars and people.

Town Branch Commons is bringing people downtown throughout the day and evening and also contributing to a revitalization of the area, with the ground floors of vacant buildings becoming activated. Wirth adds that the Commons is giving this downtown corridor a “front door quality and creating more reasons for people to visit.”