A Whirlwind Week: The Lexington Immersion

5 days, 300+ people, 17 speaking engagements, 4 receptions, and one trip to a horse farm.  The Lexington Immersion program was a tornado of ideas, vision, passion, and excitement.  Funded by the Knight Foundation, and hosted locally by the Bluegrass Community Foundation, 8 80 Cities and Gil Penalosa spent the week preaching the gospel of vibrant parks and public spaces, sustainable mobility, and social integration to as many elected officials, business leaders, and community organizations as possible.

Throughout the week, Gil spoke about the Town Branch Commons Corridor Plan, a 22-mile trail, and parks system that will see massive investment in new pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Everyone agreed on how this plan can lead to a healthier, more connected and more economically competitive Lexington.  The plan, which has been percolating for five years, is finally ready for public review. People’s excitement for the idea was overwhelming, but it often seemed to come with a cautious pessimism.  “We just don’t do things like this in Lexington” one person whispered to me.

That feeling is not unique to Lexington.  We encounter it pretty much everywhere we work, which is why at every one of the 17 speaking engagements, Gil spoke about the need to strike when the iron is hot.  There is political support for the plan from Mayor Gray.  There is funding secured, community excitement and civic engagement.  All the stars are aligned, all the pieces in place.  It’s time to start doing.  Change can be hard, and big projects, require continuous energy, not just from elected officials, but from city staff, businesses leaders, and community groups.  Town Branch Commons, a minimum bike grid, fantastic public spaces and walkable communities were all incredibly popular ideas discussed over the course of the week.  Lexington can have them all. The energy, the passion for people friendly spaces is so evident.  Let’s get started.  Lexington is ready.

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