Many cities discuss revitalizing their downtown areas – Lexington puts those ideas into action.
Downtown Lexington is a vibrant cultural hub with live music, art studios and galleries, museums, theaters, and outdoor festivals. Over 100 retail shops and 170 restaurants and bars are located in downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods, including Urban Outfitters, Vinaigrette Salad Kitchen, Agave & Rye, and Pies & Pints. Photo by Ken Silvestri
In the heart of downtown, the Fifth Third Pavilion at Cheapside Park operates weekly events and supports a vibrant nightlife. Thursday Night Live, a live music event, is held weekly during the summer, bringing together great music, food, and drink. The Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday, where people gather to purchase local produce, meats, cheeses, and other products while enjoying downtown.
Surrounding downtown Lexington are several historic neighborhoods that provide a residential experience within close proximity to the vibrant downtown restaurant and entertainment scene. For those who want to live in the heart of downtown, several condominium projects have been completed, allowing urban living at its finest.
A description of downtown Lexington wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the link to the University of Kentucky campus; just a short walk down a completely re-imagined and redesigned South Limestone puts you into the heart of Kentucky’s flagship university and another great collection of restaurant, retail, and entertainment options.
Rupp Arena and the Central Bank Center are also downtown. Rupp Arena is classically known as the home of the University of Kentucky Wildcats Basketball, but also hosts many concerts and events. The Central Bank Center, which manages Rupp Arena, attracts many conventions and large shows including the Kentucky Crafted Market and the Incredible Food Show. The Lexington Opera House, also managed by the Central Bank Center, is just a few blocks away and hosts musicals, ballets, and concerts.
Another popular spot downtown is The Square–a 14,000 square foot collection of retail shops, dining, and entertainment on one city block. Originally built in the 1880s, this beautiful building adds to the historic architecture of downtown and was recently spruced up in a $2.3 million renovation. There are a handful of museums and galleries at The Square, with a mix of shopping and dining.
For movie buffs, Lexington has a special attraction beyond several state-of-the-art theaters. Built in 1921, the 800-seat renovated Kentucky Theater combines the grandeur of Italian Renaissance architecture with a state-of-the-art projection system featuring Dolby sound. The “Kentucky” is a Lexington landmark, which has become a meeting place for visitors and residents alike. As a revival theater, three to six classic, first-run, and avant-garde films are shown daily.
21c Museum Hotel recently opened downtown in Lexington’s first skyscraper, the Fayette National Bank Building, built in 1913. This boutique hotel has 88 rooms and brings an adjacent art museum and a restaurant, Lockbox. Lockbox features locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and varies menu items throughout the year. Housed in the original bank hall of the historic building, Lockbox offers unique dining with a private dining room in the original safe deposit vault.
The newest addition to Lexington’s skyline is City Center. City Center includes a 12-story office tower, a 214-room full service hotel by Marriott, a 120-room, extended-stay hotel by Residence Inn with a rooftop bar, 3 floors of penthouse condominiums, and restaurants such as Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse. The structures are built on top of a 700-car underground parking garage. The completion of City Center brings even more big city amenities to pair with Lexington’s small-town feel.
To further increase Lexington’s walkability and bicycle access, Lexington devel-oped the Town Branch Commons Corridor Project (TBCC). The TBCC will expand bicycle and pedestrian access to all areas of the city by connecting existing parks, trails, and bikeways to create 19.5 miles of uninterrupted pedestrian and bicycle transit trails, including 3.8 miles in downtown Lexington. Residents, tourists, students, and employees will be able to travel by foot or by bicycle to shop-ping, dining, and working downtown, as well as to the beautiful farms, eclectic neighborhoods and suburbs, shopping, dining, and recreation throughout Lexington.
The Town Branch Commons Corridor is designed as a linear park, with green space and attractive landscape that will beautify the city, increase property values, and create a natural habitat for suburb wildlife and plants. TBCC will improve the quality of life for people using all modes of transit, while improving the safety of bicycle and pedestrian commuters. TBCC separates bicycle and pedestrian commuters from vehicular traffic, creates more designated bike lane throughout the city, increases and improves pedestrian crossing, improves lighting and visibility of drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, and creates traffic calm-ing measures such as narrowing travel lanes.For more information and a list of events and attractions in the downtown area, please visit the Downtown Lexington Partnership.