Client

Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government

Location

Lexington, KY

Services

Engineering, Landscape Architecture, Planning, Site Development

Accolades

2023 ASLA National Honor Award in Urban Design

2023 ASLA Kentucky Honor Award in General Design Constructed Work

2023 ASLA New York Merit Award in General Design

2023 ASLA SERC Merit Award in Design Constructed

2022 Federal Highway Administration Environmental Excellence Award

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Town Branch Commons is a transformative multimodal transportation and linear park system that runs through downtown Lexington, Kentucky. Tracing the historic Town Branch Creek, Lexington’s original water source buried below the city’s streets, this project serves as the hub of a city-wide trail system that connects the city center to the countryside.

After a decade-long partnership between Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, design and construction teams and a broader community of stakeholders—with the design team supporting throughout all phases including TIGER and additional grant applications—this high-performance infrastructure project is an investment in Lexington’s civic and public assets. Town Branch Commons is not just a beautiful streetscape and park system through downtown—it is also a thread of history.

2.2
miles of greenway
22
miles of protected bike and pedestrian paths
300+
trees planted
people walking and biking in Lexington on Town Branch Commons

A Complete Streets Design

The downtown streets adjacent to the Commons were transformed into a safe multi-modal trail system that separates people from vehicles. It connects diverse neighborhoods along its path and promotes active transportation, economic development and health.

The greenway accommodates pedestrians and cyclists, offering over 22 continuous miles of safe paths by connecting to the larger regional trail network. Complete Streets and mobility enhancements included closing critical gaps in trail and pedestrian infrastructure, separating bike infrastructure from vehicles, providing safe access to transit facilities, enhanced crossings, intersection safety, corridor safety improvements and traffic calming features.

a flowing stream in Town Branch Commons
children playing in a flowing stream in Town Branch Commons

Introducing Environmental Benefits

The project was invested in resilient green infrastructure, using features such as bioswales, stormwater-capturing green streets, rain gardens and pervious paving. Tripling downtown Lexington’s urban tree canopy curbed heat island effect, took a substantial amount of pressure off the stormwater system and improved microclimates during summers to enhance sustainability and resiliency.

an aerial shot of the trail in Town Branch Commons
people pointing at signage on the trail in Town Branch Commons

From City to Countryside

Inspired by the karst geology and the unique Kentucky Bluegrass regional landscape, the Commons weave limestone features throughout the design, from immersive water features to signature “crosshatch” paving and traditional dry-laid stone fences created with local stonemasons. Signage and wayfinding seen throughout the trail tell the project’s underlying story from a historical, ecological and environmental context.

people riding bikes in Town Branch Commons

A National Example

By creating additional access for pedestrians to businesses along the trail, retail spaces adjacent to Town Branch Commons are now more activated and desirable than ever. This revitalization effort has created a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere that draws visitors from near and far, establishing Lexington and the project as a model for smart urban planning and community-driven development, as recognized by Reimagining the Civic Commons.

Not only does Town Branch Commons bring a bit of our Bluegrass region into the heart of the city, but it also helps to connect people. In the end, that’s what this project is about. The outcome was better connecting our neighborhoods, our people to each other, and to our business center, and just adding so much vitality to downtown. Working with Gresham Smith has been a wonderful experience. They worked hand-in-hand with me, the contractor, and all our staff at the city. It wouldn’t be a project without Gresham Smith. Brandi Peacher Director of Project Management, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government