Vision to implementation: Lexington celebrates completion of Town Branch Commons

Oct 13, 2022

Today, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) and partners celebrate the completion of Town Branch Commons—a 2.5-mile multimodal greenway weaving through Lexington along the former path of Town Branch Creek.

Town Branch Commons threads together stormwater management and a shared greenway, eventually linking into the Town Branch Trail and Legacy Trail—altogether, a 5.5-mile network that connects downtown Lexington to rural communities to the North and West in Fayette County. The design, led by SCAPE since 2013 in collaboration with a large, multi-disciplinary team including Gresham Smith, brings a ribbon of native Bluegrass landscape into the city through lush stormwater landscapes and dry-stacked limestone walls and paving details inspired by the karst geology found across central Kentucky.

“It’s been an honor for SCAPE to work with LFUCG for over a decade to achieve their goal: a legacy open space that honors the spirit of Bluegrass country,” said Kate Orff, Founding Principal of SCAPE. “This is a testament to years of collaborative work—grant proposals, public education initiatives, iterative design, and work with local artisans to craft a space for all Lexingtonians.”

At a broader scale, Town Branch Commons is a large-scale investment in resilient urban infrastructure, involving a roadway “diet” that maintains vehicular transportation needs while carving out space for an enhanced linear public realm with a protected bicycle lane, pedestrian route, and stormwater landscapes. Through the incorporation of hundreds of new trees, plantings, and stormwater management areas throughout downtown Lexington, the Commons work to make the city more resilient to storms and extreme heat. SCAPE also designed interpretive signage that is distributed throughout the greenway from Vine Street through Midland Avenue, each sign describing a different aspect of the region’s social history, karst geology, and local context as interpreted through greenway design.

Beyond the greenway, Town Branch Commons represents a long-standing partnership between SCAPE, LFUCG, and a larger team to reimagine mobility, public space, and resilience in Lexington. In 2013, SCAPE won the design competition for the Commons funded by the Ingram Family Foundation, Kentucky Utilities, and the Fayette Alliance. In 2016, the project was awarded $14.1 million in federal TIGER grant funds (supported by SCAPE and the wider team), with the remainder of the overall $23.1 million in design and construction funding secured through a range of federal, state, and private sources. Throughout this process, SCAPE led the design vision, master plan, and design guidelines, with Gresham Smith and a larger team brought on to lead final design documentation and implementation, during which SCAPE played an advisory role. The project broke ground in 2018; all segments of the trail were completed in 2022.

Throughout this time, SCAPE led a number of related initiatives, including Town Branch Water Walk—a grant-funded collaboration with LFUCG, the University of Kentucky, and MTWTF to engage and educate Lexington residents about the city’s urban water systems through podcasts, maps, and a self-guided scavenger hunt.

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Client: Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG)

Collaborators: Gresham Smith, Strand Engineering, Aguilar Stone Masonry, Pace Contracting, Lord Aeck Sargent, Third Rock Consultants, Lochner, AECOM, University of Kentucky, Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (VisitLex), Town Branch Trail, Inc., Acheulean Consulting, Art Inc. Kentucky, Yvonne Giles, Kenneth Brooks